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Dale Sprosty raised his trumpet to his lips, closed his eyes and fulfilled a dream at Arlington National Cemetery by playing taps October 4, 1996 at the Tomb of the Unknown Dead from the Civil War.

Sprosty of Mount Pleasant, Mich., is the first known civilian ever allowed to play taps at either of the cemetery's two tombs for unknown soldiers, said John Metzler, superintendent of the cemetery, which is operated by the Army.

"The magnitude of this," said Sprosty, working to hold back tears after he finished playing. "It was terrific, almost overpowering -- but I knew it would be."

Sprosty, 65, had wanted to play taps at Arlington Cemetery ever since President Kennedy was killed in 1963. But it wasn't easily done --since the Army runs the cemetery and only the military plays taps there.

With the intervention of Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., Sprosty got to present his case to cemetery officials, who decided to allow him to play.

The Tomb of the Unknowns, which represents soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, was off limits. But Sprosty readily accepted an offer to play at the Tomb of the Unknown Dead from the Civil War.

That granite tomb, shaped like a casket, holds the remains of 2,111 Civil War soldiers and is located in at Arlington Cemetery.

As a corporal in the Army, he had played for a military band in New York City from 1948 to 1952.

After leaving the Army, Sprosty went into the bag manufacturing business, but he never stopped playing taps on his trumpet.

"In the last 45 years, I've played at cemeteries all over Michigan," Sprosty said.