Carter County Honor Guard needs a few good men and women

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Those who serve in the military do a great honor to our country — and as such, they deserve to be honored themselves. One way to honor our veterans is by paying proper respects to them when they die.
The Carter County Honor Guard does just that. Dressed in clean, freshly ironed uniforms, they represent the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Their rite is time-worm and familiar to each — a commander, a captain, two color guards, and a firing team. One will double as the bugler.
Under Public Law 106-65, every eligible veteran may receive a military funeral honors ceremony at the family’s request. The program is aptly titled, “Honoring Those Who Served.” Thousands of veterans have been honored in this way, as will thousands more. Each ceremony includes playing of Taps and a personal presentation of the U.S. burial flag.
When the verbal tribute is finished, the firing team leader readies his soldiers. The sharp report of rifle fire disturbs the stillness of the cemetery. The men fire another volley, then a third. Mourners gaze at the American flag inside the shelter as the strains of Taps fill the melancholy air.
Unfolding and refolding the American flag is another well-practiced ceremony, performed by two officials. Into the folded flag are pressed three empty shell casings, representing Duty, Honor and Country. As he looks into the eyes of the grieving wife, son or daughter he speaks: “On behalf of a grateful nation, I present this flag as a token of our appreciation for the faithful and selfless service of your loved one for this country.”
It is very striking. On behalf of the combined armed forces of the most powerful military in history, a representative of that force kneels meekly to offer his country’s flag to the family of a lone fallen veteran.
Locally, the Carter County Honor Guard is in need of some service-connected men and women, who are willing to give of their time and resources to honor our community’s veterans at funerals. The honor guard depends on donations to fund their services, but, most of all they need people, who will stand along side of them at the grave side of veterans and provide them with a military send-off.
Since the first of the year, the local honor guard has performed over 120 funerals. Some requests have had to be turned down because of the lack of service-connected personnel to perform at funerals.
An aging population means there will be many more veterans dying and more requests for military funerals. And, even though there are enough veterans in Elizabethton and Carter County to fill the ranks, only a few, thusfar, have answered the call.
The local honor guard currently has only five members. More volunteers are needed. We owe much to all of our veterans — dead or alive, old or young, and whether their war was popular or unpopular. Nearly every right and freedom we enjoy today has been defended on a battlefield. A veteran’s funeral with military honors is a simple, yet elegant way to pay tribute.
It also preserves our heritage, passing the memory of sacrificial service to the next generation of Americans. If a military funeral may not have been a priority for the veteran, are there children or grandchildren who could benefit from observing the ceremony? It’s a good way to keep our legacy from fading like the setting sun over Happy Valley Memorial Park or a small family cemetery on Stoney Creek or at Roan Mountain or Hampton.
If you’re a veteran, be proud of your service and your legacy. But also think about donating a few hours each month to the Carter County Honor Guard. If you are serving in the National Guard, think about serving one weekend a month to this organization. It’s a good way to give back to the community and to honor a fellow soldier, sailor, airman, or marine, who has served his country. You are again needed in the ranks.

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