For two years, families of local veterans being laid to rest had to look outside Grays Harbor if they wanted a proper military funeral. But now the Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard is back up and running, readyto give their fallen comrades a proper send-off.
It’s not a small commitment: The government provides the ceremonial rifles and ammunition, but members have to work with their local VFW to fund the $400 uniforms, replacing damaged ribbons and paying for gas to get to the ceremonies where they’re needed.
“I didn’t mind it because I’m Army through-and-through,” said Honor Guard Commander Lloyd Jorgenson. “I feel like it’s my duty.”
He was recruited for the Honor Guard’s last incarnation, and now has spearheaded its revival.
So far, five members have joined, plus a civilian bugler, but they hope to attract two to three more veterans to really round out their company.
The Honor Guard performs 21-gun salutes and other ceremonies for funerals.
“The families really appreciate it. If we didn’t, the families wouldn’t have the rites they deserve,” Jorgenson said.
Along with Jorgenson, the new group consists of Wayne Self, Coast Guard; Dan Schlesser, Navy; Anthony Magri, Navy; and Bill Wendy, Army. Marc Bmar volunteers as bugler.
For more than a month, the vets have been drilling like they’re new recruits again.
“I haven’t had a rifle since boot camp, which was 40 years ago,” Magri said with a laugh.
“We’ve been practicing and practicing and practicing,” Jorgenson said.
Their focus is on Harbor-area events, mainly Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Elma so far, but “we’d go elsewhere if asked,” Jorgenson said.
To schedule the Honor Guard for a funeral, contact the cemetery involved. To join the Honor Guard, contact Jorgenson at 533-3637. All veterans able to make the time commitment are welcome, he said.
Donations may be sent to VFW Post 224 or the Aberdeen Anchor Bank branch.