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Veterans trained for honor guard

February 20, 2002

Veterans trained for honor guard



By SARAH MULLIN / Staff Writer


World War II veteran Gerry Early ventured to the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Martinsburg, W.Va., Friday to train for the veterans honor guard along with about 16 other area veterans.

Early just moved to the area from Virginia.

"I was looking for activities. I don't like to sit around and do nothing. The more active I am the better it is for me," he said. "All my life I have been involved with people. It is more stimulating to me."

Many of the veterans who participated in the training have been a part of the honor guard for years, unlike Early who is new to the guard.

"The U.S. government has finally seen fit to make into law that any veteran whose family requests an honor guard shall receive it," said Jim Grose, commander of the Veterans Combined Honor Guard of Martinsburg.

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Regardless of the number of years veterans have participated in the honor guard, they must now undergo official training. After the training they receive a certificate from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and an "Honoring Those Who Served" recognition pin.

Capt. Charles Seay, of the 38th Ordnance Group of Charleston, W.Va., directed the training.

The Department of Veterans Affairs anticipates 600,000 veteran deaths over the next decade. More than 4,000 will be in West Virginia, Seay said.

The veterans who become a part of the honor guard will receive some benefits. If a veteran is harmed during a funeral, the government will cover the cost of medical attention. Veterans will be reimbursed for mileage at 34 cents a mile.

Grose said the government may eliminate the mileage reimbursement and pay each ceremony participant $50.

Families who request military honors for a veteran's funeral must ask their funeral director to contact the appropriate military base for an active duty honor guard. The honor guard will then be called upon. Funeral directors have been calling the veterans honor guard directly, Grose said.

So far this year, the veterans honor guard conducted military honors at seven funerals. Last year, they conducted 90 ceremonies. Sixty requests were turned down.

Grose said he sometimes has a hard time finding available members and has to turn down requests.

The honor guard is required to do three things during a ceremony: The sounding of "Taps," and the folding and presentation of the flag.

Grose, along with former commander Thomas Huntsberry, gave a flag-folding demonstration.

When folding a flag, the flag must never touch the ground. The stars must always be placed over the deceased soldier's heart, and the flag should be presented on one knee "if you're not too old," Huntsberry said.

There should be a total of 12 folds. Each fold holds a special meaning beginning with the symbol of life.

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