Taps may be sounding for local honor guard

Published 8:35 am Friday, September 12, 2014

A Carter County tradition for more than 50 years, members of the Carter County Honor Guard may have to hang up their boots if they can’t get any additional volunteers by the end of the month.
The Honor Guard provides military honors at veterans’ funerals and conducts military-based services at schools, churches and other community meeting places.
However, the group’s numbers have dwindled over the years, mainly because several of the members have suffered from a variety of health issues. The group once boasted 14 members; now only four are left to carry on the work. And that just isn’t enough to continue to run the program, says Honor Guard volunteer Ken Nidiffer.
 “We don’t want to quit, but we need help,” Nidiffer said. “We just need someone to put in the time to do this.”
Honor Guard leader Albert Harrison said the guard needs 10 members to have a full crew but they can get by with seven if they have to.
“If we could get two or three more, we could continue,” Nidiffer said. “Right now, we just can’t do it.”
The Honor Guard performs military honors at funerals, including a 21-gun rifle volley, playing Taps and presenting a folded American flag to the veteran’s family. On occasion, the guard has served as pallbearers for fallen veterans when no one else was available to do the task.
“Whatever the family requests, we do it if we can,” Harrison said.
In addition to the funeral service, the honor guard performs in ceremonies at the Elizabethton War Memorial and in military programs at schools and churches. Harrison noted that all of their services are provided free of charge and the Honor Guard is run completely on donations.
Nidiffer said anyone can be a volunteer in the Honor Guard and those volunteers do not have to be veterans.
“We will take anyone that is willing,” he said. “We can teach what they need to know in about 15 minutes.”
Joining the Honor Guard comes at no charge to the volunteer since the group provides the uniform needed for the ceremonies.
Harrison said it is “a shame” the Honor Guard can’t maintain enough volunteers to keep providing the funeral services.
“To have someone leave their country, go over there and fight and then come home and we can’t give them a decent funeral, that is just not right,” he said.
Nidiffer said the group would like to know as soon as possible if any new volunteers will be joining the Honor Guard so they can continue with their ceremonies.
“If we don’t have more by the end of the month, we will have to quit,” he said. “We don’t want to. We want to keep going.”
To volunteer for the Carter County Honor Guard, call Nidiffer at 474-3160 or Harrison at 542-8064.

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