As a combined honor guard, color guard and marching unit, members go to funerals, memorial ceremonies ? and even grand openings, such as the one Wednesday at Martin's Food Market on Wesel Boulevard.
"That's been keeping us pretty busy," said Rusty Baker, the guard captain and post commander.
"We can always use more (members)," guard member Donna Tourney of Hagerstown said.
The AMVETS guard unit occasionally can't get to events, but "I don't think we've turned a funeral down," Tourney said.
"We would like for every veteran (to be) interred with the honor he or she deserves," said Joe March, a spokesman at the American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis.
Few members, many events George Gearhart understands.
He is the captain of the honor guard at Charles Nitterhouse Post 1599 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chambersburg, Pa., which, he said, has been part of about 60 funerals throughout Franklin County this year and more than 140 last year.
The guard has attended as many as eight funerals in a week, he said.
Almost every time, someone plays taps live ? something every honor guard can't guarantee. Gearhart said two guard members play the bugle and one plays the trumpet, creating a good chance someone will be available.
"A bugler makes a funeral, I think," he said.
The Marine Corps League's Bulldog Detachment in Hagerstown has an honor and color guard with about eight members, said Philip Stotelmyer, the detachment's commandant.
Stotelmyer said the guard has two busy seasons: Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It also goes to a few Marine funerals; the last was more than two months ago.
The guard does what it can, but "the men are getting old," he said.
Stotelmyer, 72, served in the Marine Corps from 1956 to 1959. He said he was stationed in North Carolina and Puerto Rico and he sailed with the Navy into Lebanon.
Washington County's AMVETS post relies both on veterans and ladies auxiliary members for its honor guard.
Baker said each member learns all of the duties. Last week, they practiced folding the American flag, which is presented to a veteran's family at a funeral.
At Wednesday's grocery store grand opening, the AMVETS guard was:
- Baker, 57, the captain. He said he was in the National Guard from 1967 to 1972, serving at Fort Dix, N.J., and Fort Polk, La.
- Patty Huettl, 39, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who held the Maryland flag during the grand opening ceremony. She said she served in the U.S. Army with the 377th Transportation Unit from 1986 to 1988.
- Chris Saur, 58, of Hagerstown, who carried the post's flag. She said she comes from an Army family ? her father was in World War II, her brother was in the Vietnam War and her son was stationed in Germany.
- John Heckman, 61, of Hagerstown, who carried the POW/MIA flag. He said he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1966 at Loring Air Force Base in Maine.
- Mike Bolinger, 45, of Hagerstown, who held a rifle. He said he served in the Maryland Army National Guard in Frederick, Md., from 1979 to 1985.
- Bruce Patrick, 43, of Hagerstown, who held the American flag. He served in a U.S. Army air defense artillery from 1979 to 1983 in Stuttgart, Germany.
- Tourney, 49, who held a rifle. Her family's military history is deep: She said her grandfather served in World War I, her father was a pilot in World War II and three brothers have served in three branches. Uncles, nephews and her stepfather also have served.
'Got to be committed'
Baker said his guard might be surviving better than the one at Morris Frock Post 42 of the American Legion because its members are younger.
Young, 74, who joined the honor guard in 1969, acknowledged the age difference, but isn't sure that time alone explains the decline.
"They've got to be committed," he said. "People are not as committed."
Keeping an honor guard going can be more about focus and drive than about the size of the post, said Kit Watson, the American Legion's Pennsylvania adjutant in Harrisburg.
While Chambersburg has a large, active American Legion post, a small one in southwest Pennsylvania has close to 30 people in its honor guard.
"It's where they put their emphasis," Watson said. "I say you need to get some other guys in the honor guard. It can't just be a club."