Honoring Those Who Served With Military Funeral Honors

By John W. Davis

June 18, 2010 Updated May 31, 2010 at 9:27 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - The Fort Wayne Honor Guard Team is doing their part to honor veterans every day of the year.

"To me it's an honor to give them that last respect," said Firing Squad Member Leo Thieme.

Thieme served in the military from 1953 to 1955.

Those are the sentiments echoed by volunteer Fort Wayne Honor Guard Team members.

In 2009, the Fort Wayne Honor Guard Team took part in more than 300 funerals.

Some were career military men and women, other were honorably discharged after a few months.

Regardless of rank, branch or age, all U.S. Veterans are eligible for a homegoing service with military honors.

"The families find a new level of closure, when the military has the opportunity to come out and participate in the services," said Fort Wayne Honor Guard Coordinator Sgt. Alan Parr.

According to the Secretary for Memorial Affairs, 1,800 veterans pass every day.

Team members say they are always ready to go at a moments notice but partner with American Legions and VFW's to provide firing parties when needed.

"We had World War I veterans encouraging me to do it and I started doing it back in '56," said World War II veteran and Decatur Firing Squad Member, Fred Bieberich.

"I even took time off from my job," recalled Thieme.

"I ran a construction crew and I took the time off to do it anyway," expounded Thieme.

"It's amazing to hear their stories, what they have to tell us and how their time in the military was to them," said Honor Guard Member Spc. Justin Sliger.

Meanwhile, honor guard soldiers go through a forty hour training course and practice before every service to keep their skills razor sharp.

"My family has military background, very traditional. I like to be here to honor those who served," said Certified Honor Guard Trainer & Member Spc. Spencer Copeland.

"The families really do respect it. We've had many compliments from families," said Spc. Sliger.

Military honors and presenting the flag are all done to hopefully provide solace to families.

And so is this first stanza of TAPS...

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

To contact your local honor guard call Fort Wayne's Regional Honor Guard Coordinator SGT. Alan Parr at (317) 519-0819.




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