Honor guard marches on:The American Legion Honor Guard stood at attention in the distance as the family and friends of Ronald Warner arrived Friday morning at the New Richmond City Cemetery for the burial ceremony of their loved one.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
The American Legion Honor Guard stood at attention in the distance as the family and friends of Ronald Warner arrived Friday morning at the New Richmond City Cemetery for the burial ceremony of their loved one.
The Honor Guard had arrived at the cemetery ahead of time to prepare for their important part in the ceremony. Each member of the group had a role to play, and each took their role seriously.
“We are committed to doing this,” said Chuck Mehls, Honor Guard commander for Post #80. “It’s important to recognize these people for what they’ve done in the past.”
The Honor Guard is slowing down these days, mostly because veterans from World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War who make up the majority of the group are aging along with their peers. Still, the 23 volunteers who have agreed to serve on the Honor Guard feel an obligation to provide a final salute to their comrades who pass away.
“It’s a little unusual to have such a large group of volunteers,” said Mehls, guard commander for the past eight years. “A lot of posts can’t really field a full honor guard.”
Mehls said the group tries to recruit younger members so the Honor Guard can continue on strong, but he admitted it’s a bit of a challenge.
“This is an extremely necessary service,” he noted.
The typical Honor Guard consists of a color front (flag bearers) and riflemen at the left and right of the flags.
“You should never have the colors march alone,” Mehls instructed.
Joining the color guard is usually a bugler and a rifle squad. The local guard tries to have at least seven riflemen at each funeral who fire three volleys (to complete the 21-shot salute).
The Honor Guard tries to show up 15 to 30 minutes before each burial ceremony so they can get set up and have one walk-through before people begin to arrive at the cemetery.
Mehls said the Legion’s Honor Guard gets called out to an average of two funerals a month. Over the past couple of weeks, however, three fellow veterans have died and the group has been busy. They present the military honors to any veteran from any branch of service, Mehls explained.
The casket of the deceased veteran is usually draped in an American flag and the Honor Guard typically folds it up prior to burial and presents it to the family.
“The most difficult part for me is presenting the flag to the spouse or the family,” Mehls admitted. “That’s a little tough.”
Apart from funerals, the Honor Guard also keeps busy on Memorial Day as they travel among several sites to conduct special ceremonies. The group is also involved in the annual Veterans Day event at the American Legion Post #80, which is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m.
To keep from getting rusty, the Honor Guard meets once a month to practice. Four Honor Guard members are snowbirds so the remaining group members have to pick up the slack a bit during the winter months.
The Legion Honor Guard members include Mehls, Jim McKibben, Arnie Tjelta, Bob Kaczmarski, Vern Lokker, Jim Murtha, Nick Goltz, Stan Barr, Larry Houle, Dennis Hurtis, Lee Feneis, Arvid Flanum, Wayne Fredrickson, Bob Peirson, Stan Soderquist, Earl Hillestad, John Cloutier, Jerry DuBois, Jim Lauck, Mark Maple, Larry DuBois, Bob Kastens and Jim Helman.
For more information on the Honor Guard, call Mehls at 715-246-2634.