It’s never too late to pay your respects to the fallen – and for Gary ­Marquardt, that meant learning to play the trumpet at 66 years old.

Marquardt was just a youngster when he enlisted in the military and waited to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Due to a bleeding ulcer, however, he was deemed unfit to serve.

Years later, he finally found a means of atoning for his guilt over not being able to fight alongside his fellow soldiers.

In 2014, Marquardt had been attending the funeral of a military friend when he was stunned to hear a mechanical recording of a bugle playing taps. He couldn’t help but be bothered by the lack of live music to honor a fallen soldier – so he walked into a music store and started learning to play the trumpet.

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Much to the dismay of his wife and neighbors, Marquardt practiced day and night.

“It was awful,” Marquardt’s wife told KARE11 with a laugh. “Seemed like every 15 minutes, it was all the time. We were all hoping he would get better. And then he did.”

Sure enough, Marquardt managed to become a bona fide trumpeter. He then started using his newfound skill to visit local cemeteries and play taps at the gravestones of recently deceased veterans and soldiers.

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For the last five years, Marquardt has played taps from the balcony of his home in Excelsior, Minnesota; he still visits cemeteries almost every day in order to play taps for dozens of military graves; and he regularly volunteers for Bugles Across America, a nonprofit that recruits trumpeters to play taps at military funerals.

Though Marquardt told the Star Tribune that he turned 70 years old in April, he has no intention of stopping his labor of love.

(WATCH the emotional 2017 video below) – Photo by Boyd Huppert / KARE11

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  1. Gary, you have the heart of a good soldier. You are making a great contribution to our veterans. It is written the greatest sign of respect one soldier can bestow a pond another is the hand salute. Gary, I salute you.

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