I want to tell you about some incredible people I met at the Veteran’s Administration office building in Wyoming, MI a few weeks ago. Two nice gentleman had set up a table and were hoping to reach out to the community to invite members to join the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard through Operation Honor Guard U.S.
To be honest, I wasn’t drawn to the table by a strong desire to re-connect with my military past. No. There were other motivating factors…
Ron Hayward and Ernie Fiebig may be the last of a generation of selfless individuals who go beyond the call of duty and serve their fellow men and women. In fact, they go all the way to the grave to salute the fallen and honor their memory.
Ron talked to me for a while as I enjoyed a slice of cake. He was proud when describing the dedication of the volunteers and he stood a little straighter when admitting how many ceremonies he had participated in.
“I attended over three-hundred services myself in the past year.” Ron said.
And then he mentioned that they were looking for a few good men and women to join their crew of about sixty veteran Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, as well as Coast Guard servicemen and women. (Where have I heard that before? It sounds so familiar…)
“All you need is to be an honorably discharged veteran and able to attend a minimum of two funerals or ceremonies a year.”
There was hope in his voice. Many of the members were getting up in years. It was getting harder and harder to meet the demand; they sometimes had to turn families down. I suspect he’s given this speech to hundreds of people before. I wonder how many had listened, heard the pain of not being able to serve everyone.
I hated to break his heart, but I explained how my son requires my full attention and I can’t be sure I could even commit to the minimum expected. I really hated that I couldn’t say “Yes.” So I made a promise to get the word out.
“I’ll tell everyone about it on Facebook.” I assured him.
He handed me a flyer, letting me know the history and requirements of joining. Here is a summary of what it said:
According to the tri-fold pamphlet: “The Honor Guard has two units serving northern and southern Kent County by supplying members for over 500 funeral services per year as well as for participation in ceremonies on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and other events honoring veterans.”
“The Kent County Veterans Honor Guard invites all honorably discharged veterans who share our commitment to join this organization. It is not necessary to have served in a combat situation.”
“Prospective members are required to attend two funerals as observers and two monthly meetings before being voted in and provided with uniforms. There is a $50 copay for the uniforms.”
“The Honor Guard meetings are held at 7 pm on the third Tuesday of the month at selected American Legion and VFW Posts in Kent County. “
If you are interested, contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
They can also be found on Facebook: Kent County Veterans Honor Guard
During elections, you often hear politicians and campaigns loudly proclaiming that they support veterans. Perhaps they do.
But if you really want to witness selfless support of veterans? Search out your local veterans organization. And, if you are a veteran and can stand up for the fallen, become one of the volunteers who march in memory.
So, the next time a parade goes by with service men and women, carrying the flag, holding the ceremonial rifle, please, give your attention when those sentinels go by to honor those who didn’t come home.
According to the above Facebook page, you can have the chance today, the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard will hold a parade in Grand Rapids in honor of Veterans Day:
A final thought:
It is very hard to give of one’s time and energy. It is much easier to salute a flag or drop a donation in a kettle than it is to slog out in horrible weather, to face bereaved families, or, worse, a funeral where a service member had no living relatives or family left to remember them. If you cannot give of yourself by joining this community, find your own way to serve.
I’m sharing a link to a friend’s post on the topic of Veterans Day. She and I met at basic training in South Carolina thirty-four years ago. We’ve discussed how awkward we feel accepting anyone’s thanks for our service–seeing as we both served during peace time. But, as I like to think of it, I am accepting thanks on behalf of my fellow servicemen and women. Even if I don’t deserve gratitude, they certainly do.
I’ll share her post which includes ways in which to really support the troops if you want: Mythmaking and the Veteran.