Honor Guard gives final salute to veterans
American Legion Post 47 in Waynesville is more than a social club for veterans. It is a service organization, a strong community and a support network for veterans and their families. And Post 47’s Honor Guard performs a special, solemn duty for veterans who pass away.
The Honor Guard provides military honors for veterans buried in Haywood County and nearby counties.
“A veteran gets a flag and a grave marker,” said Rick Strubeck, Honor Guard commander. “The flag is folded and presented to the family by the N.C. Army National Guard; they have a unit in Western North Carolina. And the Honor Guard assists them.”
Their main function is the firing party.
“We have seven rifles that shoot three volleys, and then we play ‘Taps,’” said Strubeck.
The Honor Guard is comprised solely of volunteers.
“We have some retired military, some combat-wounded vets, members of the Men’s Auxiliary of the VFW, some from American Legion SAO (Sons of American Legion),” said Strubeck. “There’s about 16-18 members total. We get between 10-12 for each funeral. That’s seven for the rifles, one for the car, an officer of the day and a bugler. These guys are pretty dedicated.”
The Waynesville Chapter of American Legion Riders sometimes provide a motorcade from the funeral home to the graveyard.
“It’s a good thing for the veterans, and bike guys like to do that because they have a lot of heart and think a lot of the veterans,” said Strubeck. “It’s just something every veteran deserves.”
The Honor once received a stipend of $50 per funeral from the National Guard, but due to budget cuts three years ago, they’ve had to resort to “passing that hat” at the American Legion to cover fuel expenses.
In 2013, the Honor Guard assisted at 74 funerals; in 2012, they assisted in 82. So far this year, they have participated in seven.
“These guys are the best,” said Strubeck. “They come out and put on the uniform and they salute the veterans being put to rest. They’re the greatest veterans you’ll ever meet.”