By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Seven rifles fire three sharp volleys into the air. The haunting sound of “Taps” rings from a lone bugle as heads are sadly bowed.
The flag is carefully lifted from the casket and folded, each of the 13 folds bearing significance. The flag is presented to a grieving family, the last memento of a soul that served their country.
“Day is done. Gone the sun.” A veteran is laid to rest. The ritual is played out numerous times each month in Madison County as local military honor guards pay tribute at the passing of their fellow veterans.
Although the honor guards contemplate and honor the service of their military brothers and sisters month in and month out, tomorrow, as a nation, citizens give pause to remember those who have died in the service of their country. It is a day to recall loved ones and soldiers unknown to us who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of others, and in the name of freedom.
“Freedom is not free,” said Margaret Smith, who chairs the VFW/American Legion Honor Guard from Elwood. “Everybody who is a veteran has given some part of their life for everybody’s freedom.”
Members of the honor guard are veterans themselves, hailing from different branches of military service. They participate at funerals of veterans, where the family has asked for their services through a funeral home. Honor guard members receive no pay, and must respond on short notice. They are happy to do it.
“It’s an honor for us to do it,” said Herbert Lashure, who heads up the Anderson VFW Post 266 Honor Guard. His group has 13 people ready to step up at a moment’s notice.
Members are passionate
LaShure said that they’ve had as many as three funerals in a day, and they’ve done it quite a few times.
“I don’t like to turn down a veteran,” said Lashure who served in the National Guard for several years beginning in July 1954. He’s served on the honor guard for 27 years.
“It’s something I like to do,” he said simply. “That guy goes out and fights for his country. He ought to get what he deserves.”
Smith served with the Army signal corps in Berlin, Germany during the ‘80s, and has served on honor guards for the last 20 years. She and her group of about a dozen veterans from the Elwood, Frankton and Alexandria communities usually attend two or three funerals each week.
“It’s our passion. Every member of our guard is very passionate,” said Smith. “It’s the last thing a veteran can give a veteran. It’s the last thing we can give them.”
Both honor guards use M1 Garand rifles to give three perfectly timed volleys for the 21-gun salute.
“I don’t like to have a misfire or anything. ... I like for everything to go off like clockwork,“ said Lashure, noting they practice their drill.
Smith’s team is similarly dedicated to honoring the veteran, sometimes even serving as pall bearers.
“We always make sure we don’t leave their side. ... We make sure no veteran, within our power, goes without a proper military burial,” said Smith.
Art Tate serves on the Anderson honor guard. “I was in the Air Force for 28 years. It kind of continues my service to my fellow veterans,” said Tate. He noted that his wife was an Air Force nurse. “When she died, I received the flag.”
At age 30, Bret Massey is the pup in the Anderson honor guard. Massey described the injuries he suffered during his service in Iraq, and the difficulties of readjusting to life back on home turf.
“It took me awhile to get around to society,” said Massey. Once there, especially with the help of local veterans organizations, he decided the honor guard was a fitting way to honor other veterans.
“In Iraq, when someone went down, we never got to see what happened afterward. For me, this is a way to honor the fallen vets. ... Also in a way, it gives me closure to know how we treated our veterans.”
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