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Sando: Honor guards need members

Members of the Duluth Honor Guard fire a rifle salute during a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service

As a nationally accredited veteran service officer, more than often I feel compelled to periodically put words to paper and make them public. I don’t always do so for fear of becoming “preachy” — it’s easy to do when one feels a degree of passion for their calling and profession.

While discussing a disturbing nationwide trend recently with fellow veterans, your service officer was asked to put out something of a distress message — a “mayday” or “SOS,” if you will — concerning that trend, which has been growing nationally and manifested itself here in Lake County.

That trend is the lack of participation and apathy of veteran populations toward participating in honor guards and veteran service organizations. Most importantly, participation in military honors details on an honor guard.

Public Law 106-65 Section 578 requires that every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the U.S. flag and the playing of taps. Department of Defense Instruction 1300.15, “Military Funeral Support,” also outlines legal requirements.

This isn’t just a matter of veterans “giving something back” and legal requirements. After all, we already served, right? Why the hell should we put forth further effort and give even more? We don’t know the deceased, or the families.

We do know, however, that just like most of us did, they served our country honorably. We belong to a unique and exclusive fraternity. Our government says that in remembrance of our service to our country, when we die, it will provide “final honors.”

Just think about it.  

But, due to manpower shortages, we, the veterans of Lake County, and veterans nationwide at the post level and those at large, have been supporting military honors for our brethren, with, thankfully, fairly consistent support from our brethren in the National Guard, Reserve or active military services.

And, don’t forget three things:

  • Not one of us is getting younger;
  • We all have our own “owies” (physical problems — some military service connected); and
  • All have busy lives.

After all, it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Just think about it.

Have you ever taken part in an honors detail? Have you seen the appreciation in the faces and tears in the eyes of a family, grateful that their veteran’s proud military service was recognized and remembered? Presented a flag to a grieving but proud widow, widower or other family member? Collected and given the spent cartridges — the brass — to a family member, maybe a grandchild, that was fired over the veteran by his or her brethren?

Just think about it.

It is my request, my “call to action,” to Lake County and all veterans, that serious thought be given to participating on an honor guard. If you are a member of a veteran service organization, an auxiliary or “Sons of”-type organization, contact your local veteran service representatives. You are wanted, and what’s more — needed!

Just think about it.

Before you rendezvous in the hereafter with our divine, other-worldly commander-in-chief and your comrades who preceded you at that final rally point, wouldn’t you want your brethren to send you on your way?

Just think about it.

 N.V. “Vince” Sando is the veteran service officer for Lake County. He can be reached at 218-834-8326.