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Boy performs nightly tribute to N.J. veterans outside nursing home devastated by coronavirus

The Paramus Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus. Every night since April 8, a teenager has played taps on his trumpet as a way to honor the veterans inside. (Scott Faytok | For NJ Advance Media/TNS)

Every night for nearly two months, somber notes from a trumpet fill the air outside the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus.

The bugle player?

Alex Saldana, a 13-year-old Boy Scout from Oradell, pays tribute to the more than 100 veterans who lived there and have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. Every night since April 8, Saldana has played taps, the bugle call performed by the U.S. armed forces, at dusk and during flag ceremonies and military funerals.

Saldana came up with the idea as a way to inspire the veterans living in a hard-hit facility, where nearly every resident tested positive for the coronavirus by the end of April.

“They gave back to our country, so I just want to pay respect and give hope to the veterans inside,” Saldana said Tuesday in an interview with NJ Advance Media.

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On Memorial Day, Saldana performed 12 times throughout the day. He played taps in five different ceremonies in Oradell before joining thousands of musicians for “Taps Across America” in the afternoon, Saldana said.

By dusk, he was back at the veterans home, where he was joined by Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. and received an award from the American Legion. Saldana also teamed up with the Passaic Valley Elks Lodge and planted 100 tiny American flags on the facility’s front lawn.

“We’re just so happy that he was able to bring comfort and peace to so many family members, and of course, the veterans as well,” said Melissa Saldana, Alex’s mother.

Coming from a family of veterans, Alex said he was inspired to give back to a community that hits close to home. Alex’s father, David — a detective in the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office — served in both the Army and Marine Corps, according to Melissa Saldana.

Alex also learned, through a Boy Scouts project, that several of his relatives served in both world wars.

“I know it means a lot for my family, and that it means a lot to people who have fought for our country,” Alex said.

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© 2020 NJ Advance Media Group