They may not even know the deceased. It doesn't matter. All they know is that he or she served honorably. They're a veteran, and that is all that matters. So they come to do the 'right thing'.
Somberly, they erect a symbolic battle field cross which is made up with a soldier's rifle, helmet, boots, and dog tags.
Twelve American Flags, representing the 12 folds of the flag, are the backdrop for the gun detail who will fire the 21-gun salute. They represent all branches of the military, each in their own perfectly pressed uniforms, but that doesn't matter either, they are all there to pay their respects to the fallen.
"Present Arms," calls the Commander as the flag draped coffin is brought forward with the saddened family in tow. He reads, Among the Rest, Who Gave Their Best. The silence is broken by the rapid firing of the rifles. Seven men fire three shots. The bugler plays taps.
Carefully and methodically, they fold the flag and insert three spent shells into it's folds. "These shells represent Honor, Duty, and Country," he tells the family. "On behalf of the President of the United States, The United States Navy, and a grateful nation, it is my honor to present this flag to you in memory of your loved one's service to God and Country." He kneels to place the flag in the hands of the family and when he rises he salutes them and returns to the casket to salute, for the last time, the soldier within.
Who are these men? They are the Honor Guard. They perform military funeral honors, on behalf of a grateful nation, to show the nation's deepest gratitude to those who have faithfully defended our country. It is a ceremonial paying of respect, the final demonstration a grateful nation can provide to a veteran's grieving family. They don't do it for money. In fact, they donate their time. They don't do it for recognition. In fact, they don't want attention at all. They do it because it's the 'right thing' to do. With precision, compassion, and respect, they come from all around the county to acknowledge the passing of their brothers and sisters in uniform. In the 13 years since they started, they have done this almost 1,600 times. They've even laid to rest 13 of their own.
They also need help. They need more members to meet the growing number of requests and they need donations to maintain the equipment necessary to provide these services. They once performed military honors for three veterans in one day. "No family has ever paid for the service and no family should ever be denied," they say.
For more information about the Honor Guard or to make donations, please contact Peter McCann at 828-245-6970 or 828-289-5356.