Members of two American Legion posts in Bloomington and Normal have come together to take on one of the most honorable and dignified duties for Americans: to render military honors at the funeral and burial of veterans.
According to a recent feature report published by The Pantagraph, a newspaper in Central Illinois, the American Legion Honor Guard fills in an important role that is not always available to every dearly departed veteran, although it should be; to provide a rifle team for the firing of the customary three fire volleys, commonly mistaken as a “21 gun salute.”
In the past, members of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts used to fill in ceremonial duties for fallen veterans whenever servicemembers were not available. In 1999, this was deemed unacceptable, and now an honor guard of at least two service members should be provided when requested by family members; alas, this minimum would leave out the traditional playing of Taps and the three-volley fire. The American Legion Honor Guard provides a bugler plus a ceremonial rifle team of seven members, who are also veterans and volunteer for this duty.
In 2017 alone, the American Legion Honor Guard of Central Illinois has conducted 59 funerals for veterans and their surviving families, who are presented with an American flag as well as three casings from the rifle salute. The members of the honor guard may not cut a sleek figure as they did in their younger years; the little hair they still have may be fully gray by now and their uniforms are larger than they used to be, but they are dedicated, sharp and fully committed to this very honorable duty.
In the Illinois region served by the two American Legion posts, military families are happy to have count on the honor guard, which many considered to be sharper than the active duty counterparts. The honor guard expects to be at more than 100 funerals this year, and they feel that paying final respects to fellow veterans is their most special military duty.