Honor guard seeks additional members

Volunteers perform military ceremonies at veteran’s funerals

By Melody Vallieu - mvallieu@troydailynews.com

TROY — There’s a need for volunteers in Troy to help honor veterans one final time for their sacrifices.

The Veterans Memorial Honor Guard of Troy — made up of members from VFW Post 5436, American Legion Post No. 43 and AMVETS Post No. 88 — is seeking volunteers to serve on the honor guard.

Honor guard members perform ceremonies at veterans’ funerals and participate in other events such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.

Member J.B. Gibson said the honor guard was formed in 1946 by World War II veterans, but went away as time went on following the war. He said in the 1980s, the VFW revived the honor guard, adding the American Legion and AMVETS in the 1990s.

“It became real active again,” said Gibson, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam.

Member Ron Pennybacker, a veteran of the Navy who served during the Vietnam era, said during a veteran’s funeral, an honor detail of eight members perform a military ceremony that includes folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin, playing of “Taps,” and performing a three-volley rifle salute.

“There are many times we will do two funerals a week, plus other events,” Pennybacker said. “It is a real commitment.”

Pennybacker decided at his own father’s funeral to become a member.

“I was at his funeral and they said, ‘Somebody’s got to do it,’ so I do it,” said Pennybacker, who said the honor guard performed about 80 ceremonies at veteran funerals in 2017.

Pennybacker said according to the honor guard’s literature, anybody who has a direct descendant who served in one of the military branches is eligible to participate as a honor guard member. He said those becoming honor guard members also must already be or become a member of the American Legion Post 43, AMVETS Post 88 or VFW Post 5436.

“Somewhere within one of those three organizations somebody will fit,” Pennybacker said.

Pennybacker said with only about 14 active members, some aging, more members are needed to keep the honor guard moving forward — and he promises it is rewarding. Pennybacker said 10 more volunteer members would be an ideal number on the honor guard.

“To be on that honor guard and to watch the families is a really moving experience,” Pennybacker said. “It is a tremendous honor to perform that ceremony for the departed veteran.”

Gibson agreed. “It is a very big honor to do this, and show respect to deceased veterans,” he said.

Pennybacker also said by being an honor guard member, members continue to officially serve their country.

“You actually are serving your country. There’s a statute that regulates the honor guard and the government provides you with the rifle,” Pennybacker said.

Those joining the honor guard will receive all the training by other members and a full uniform, according to Pennybacker. He said that the three organizations come together to purchase the uniforms.

Pennybacker noted that all volunteers do not have to perform all of the duties of the honor guard, but they do have to be comfortable firing a rifle. He said the trumpet is now electronic, so members do not have to actually play “Taps.”

In October, the honor guard, along with the three posts, will put on a free dinner to introduce the veterans’ posts and honor guard programs, Gibson said. Plans are being finalized at this time, he said.

In the meantime, anyone interested in learning more about the Veterans Memorial Honor Guard can call Ron Pennybacker at (937) 216-7751, email him at ronpennybacker@gmail.com, find them on Facebook at Veterans Memorial Honor Guard of Troy or contact any Troy veterans organization.

Volunteers perform military ceremonies at veteran’s funerals

By Melody Vallieu