Please thank a veteran this Memorial Day
The Way I See It
by DON WEST
I am a proud veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. I am a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, a member of the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). Recently, I was thrilled to be part of a group of veterans who escorted one of our fellow veterans to his final duty station. From time to time, you may read in an obituary that the deceased will be buried with full military rites. Sometimes that is such a simple statement, I believe it fails miserably in describing the true meaning.
When a young man or woman leaves the comfort of home, family, job, friends, and acquaintances and is sent off to serve his or her country in the military, it, as has been said many times, is a commitment up to and including offering one’s life for the preservation of freedom for all of the rest of us. No one returns from military service untouched by the experience. Many have gone forth and lost their lives and most of those were buried with full military rites, but many more have served, returned, and when finally met death were interred without any acknowledgement of their military service. Some choose not to, but many others may not be aware that their service to this nation entitles them to a full military sendoff. One of the functions of military organizations such as our local American Legion Chapter is to provide an Honor Guard to perform the ceremonies to honor a fallen veteran.
If you have never witnessed one of these ceremonies, you have missed a beautiful tribute in honor of an American hero. No matter their lot in life, one who has served their country is a hero and deserves a hero’s sendoff when they die. This past week, a member of both the American Legion and the VVA local chapters was given that beautiful tribute. Mr. Kirt Guidry, a career Air Force member, died and was honored with full military rites. The American Legion Chapter Honor Guard, which has been performing these ceremonies for a number of years now, performed the prayer and the folding and presentation of The Flag to Kirt’s grandson, who is presently a member of the Armed Forces and a veteran of combat duty in the Middle East. He, in turn, presented The Flag to his grandmother, widow of the deceased. The combined Honor Guard rifle platoons of the local American Legion and Vietnam Veterans, along with the Honor Guard from the VVA Chapter in Kinder, performed the three-volley rifle send off, followed by the playing of Taps by two buglers in a beautiful echoing version of that sad melody.
Though this is always a somber ceremony, the honor and pride shown for the fallen warrior is a tribute to his or her service to mankind, and hopefully the making of a memory that the family can retain and cherish for a lifetime.
This traditional sendoff, though not always included for all honored veterans, included the posting of the guard at Kirt’s casket for the full schedule of visitation. It is a tradition of all branches of military service that we never leave our fallen behind. Though some young people may have questioned why one of us was standing at the casket at all times, hopefully, their memory of that dedication will follow them and instill the pride of duty to God and country.
I mentioned at the beginning that I was a combat veteran, but I did so because I want to remind all of you that in any war there are veterans of combat and veterans who never set foot on the battleground, but are as important to the war effort as anyone who carries a rifle. There are few combat veterans who would have changed places with those who remained behind and had the horrible jobs of processing bodies and notifying next of kin of their losses. Those veterans deserve honor and thanks far above that which they receive.
Memorial Day is approaching. Please take time to fly your flag, thank a veteran, and remember the sacrifices that have been made for us.
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