Local honor guard marks end of service for veterans

Local honor guard marks end of service for veterans

Image Credit: Teri Stein

The honor guard at the Carl C. Stoller VFW Post 1445 in New Philadelphia has unfortunately been extremely busy this year. The volunteer members have attended more than 60 graveside funeral services honoring those that have passed on. It is more than they have ever attended before, and they couldn’t do it alone.

“The Sugarcreek American Legion honors team helped us out by sending guys at least two times and sending team members to help supplement our team on occasions when we had two services on the same day,” said Jerry Cheveney, who serves as chaplain of the team. “We did the same for them on at least two occasions last year, sending some of our team members to help them. The Bolivar American Legion honors team sent team members to help us on at least two occasions as well.”

The Newcomerstown honors team stepped up too.

“They actually sent their entire team to perform a service for us when we could not cover the service due to the team being committed to other services,” Cheveney said. “Their team actually traveled all the way from Newcomerstown to New Cumberland to handle a service. Our team has traveled to Carrollton and Cadiz and Navarre to help other teams. This commitment to serve our veterans and their families is shared by all these teams.”

The local chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of American, AMVETS, the Bolivar American Legion and a few other organizations that are no longer able to provide services on their own assist as well.

Sgt. First Class Cody Wells of Dennison, a recruiter for the U.S. Army at their New Philadelphia office, thinks it’s important to give back to other veterans.

“We kind of have a camaraderie and a brotherhood to take care of each other no matter what the generation is, whether it's World War II veterans, Iraq veterans, Vietnam veterans or Desert Storm veterans. We all have that commonality with each other,” Wells said.

Though the honor guard is a duty veterans take seriously, it’s one that has seen a drop in the number of volunteers over the years.

“An honorably discharged veteran is entitled to an honor service, and that's where it's becoming more difficult for them to get that because more and more veterans organizations, who are generally the ones who provide the service, are no longer doing it,” Cheveney said. “They're just not getting the membership they've had in the past. Our unit here is now the only unit in Dover and New Philadelphia that's doing it. There’s a lot of people that need this honor, and we want to be there for them.”

At one recent funeral, the average age of the veterans in the honor guard was around 70.

“We've been blessed to have a few newer members, Cody Wells and Steve Tasket, an Iraqi war veteran, so we're starting to get a few younger people, but we need more,” Cheveney said.

Cheveney, a Vietnam veteran, oversees arranging the honor guards. Area funeral homes will contact him when a family requests the service. He got involved after he read an article about the difficulty in finding people willing to step up to do the honors.

“It's something that I wanted to do, and I've been doing it now for, this is my seventh year as a chaplain and my ninth year actually doing the services,” Cheveney said. “For me, it's really important. Dale (Denham) and I, we have the special honor of being at the grave site with the family. For me, I think when I go down on my knee and present a flag to the family, I can see in their eyes as I'm reading the presentation to them that for just a moment the pain of losing someone just goes away and I see the pride they have in that service member, their family member who served our country. A family will thank us for doing this, but for each and every one of us, it's really an honor to do this for our brothers and sisters in arms.”

The service includes a speech honoring the veteran and a prayer. The riflemen fire, taps are played, and the flag covering the casket is folded and presented to the next of kin.

The rifle volleys represent the servicemen's devotion to duty, honor and country.

“It’s been a tradition going back almost to medieval times,” Cheveney said. “Taps came into the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and it was originally meant to mark the end of the day. In the case of a funeral, it marks the end of the service person's call to duty and the beginning of their eternal rest. The folding of the flag, it's folded into the tricorn, has a number of different symbols included, but it is then presented to the family as a token of appreciation from the commander in chief — the president of the United States — and the particular branch that that person served in and on behalf of the nation as a symbol of our appreciation for that person's honorable and faithful service.”

Denham said there is sometimes confusion with the volleys. They are not a 21-gun salute, which are reserved for presidents and heads of states and usually involve larger firearms like cannons.

The honor guards will have three, five or seven riflemen, depending on the number of volunteers. The post likes to have 10 men serving in the honor guard if they are able to get enough volunteers.

After most services the Carl C. Stoller Post 1445 provides lunch for the honor guard volunteers at the post. The volunteers enjoy having lunch together as a team, continuing that camaraderie that honors all who serve the country.

Denham has been involved in honor guard services for 22 years.

“Every veteran deserves this honor, and it's tougher and tougher to get a group together,” Denham said, adding he likes to have other posts involved to help. “It’s good because it's nice to have everybody represented.”

New Philadelphia VFW Post 1445 to host Vietnam Wall Memorial

The New Philadelphia VFW Post 1445 will host a replica of the Vietnam Wall on Nov. 11-13. The memorial will be open 24 hours a day.

There was some availability, and a last-minute decision was made to bring it to New Philadelphia.

The memorial will be dedicated following the traditional Veterans Day service on the square of New Philadelphia at 11 a.m.

“We're still working on the details of the dedication of the wall,” Cheveney said. “We’ll be assembling it on the 10th, doing a dedication the 11th, and then it will be open to the public to come and see.”

Cheveney said the wall is coming from Texas. The post has asked members of the local Vietnam Veterans of America group for guidance as they have previously brought the wall to New Philadelphia after a longer time of planning.

“We want to do it right in the short amount of time that we have to get it all done,” Cheveney said.

With the wall open 24 hours, it provides an opportunity for everyone to visit.

“Anybody can come. A lot of veterans, especially those with PTSD who don't like crowds, they'll come at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Larry Clawson of New Philadelphia, a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 857. “We'll have guards and security day and night.”