Duty. Honor. Country. Those three words describe members of the military Honor Guard. They have served their country honorably, and for years, they have volunteered to serve their fellow veterans by presenting full honors at their funerals. Many of the warriors that they serve are complete strangers.
“Anybody that is honorably discharged from the military deserves that right,” said Sonja Adkins, the commander of the aging Honor Guard for a local VFW. The average age of this group is 75 years old.
“The oldest member we’ve had in the past was 93 years old,” recalled Adkins, who has been serving in various capacities with the Honor Guard. In fact, her husband, a fellow veteran who died last year, got her started.
As the years come and go, so do these honorable volunteers. On a good day, at least 5 members show up for funerals. Sometimes, it’s less. They at least need someone to fold the American flag and present it to the deceased veterans next of kin. And play Taps – which is a challenge to find a volunteer who knows how to play. So these days, it is increasingly done with the use of an electronic musical device inserted into a trumpet or bugle.
On this day World War II veteran Charles Jordan, 97, was called home. Jordan served as a member of the Navy Seabees (Construction Battalions) who built bases during the war. Charles Jordan, Junior had previously passed away and was also given full military honors.
“We now have two flags from senior and junior; quite an honor,” said Sandy Hughes, one of the daughters of Charles Jordan, Senior.
But now that more and more Honor Guard members are dying too, who will fill their shoes? Who will step forward to cover at least one funeral a week, parades and other events?
It’s sadly becoming more clear that without a new generation to answer this calling to honor their own, we’re not only saying good-bye to the brave but also to a time-honored tradition. If you are a veteran and want to join the Honor Guard, contact your local veterans service group and/or any state military cemetery to find out more information.
Find out more about military honors provided through the Department of Defense. To arrange military funeral honors, contact your local funeral home.