By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — “On behalf of the President of the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation.”
These words are spoken by the members of the Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.) Chapter 158 of Keavy more than 80 times per year. The D.A.V. Honor Guard provides military honors at funerals for veterans without any form of compensation.
“The Honor Guard is not a group of old vets playing soldier, looking for an excuse to wear a uniform or trying to relive their military experience,” said Honor Guard member Charles Hayes. “It’s about veterans honoring veterans and saying farewell to a departed comrade.”
Often times, they didn’t even know the deceased. However, that individual practiced commitment, character, sacrifice and service for their country and community; and deserves a military burial.
“Sometimes we’re the only veterans present at these veteran funerals,” Chapter member Jeff Caudill said. “We’re not going to let our comrades be laid to rest without veterans there. They weren’t alone in their service and we won’t let them be alone as they’re laid to rest.”
The Keavy D.A.V. Honor Guard provides military honors at funeral services in Laurel and surrounding counties. Most of the members have participated in hundreds of military funerals.
Currently, the Honor Guard has approximately 12 members. Each of them render honors at military funerals sometimes two times per week and on occasion several times in one day.
Like the U.S. Postal Service, they do their job in rain, sleet, snow or shine.
“We are all veterans,” Caudill. “We have done more than 80 funerals already this year. We don’t get paid for this. We do it because we are all veterans and we want to honor veterans.”
Despite their sense of duty, the Honor Guard members aren’t immune to the pain of saying farewell to a brother or sister veteran.
“It gets to us,” said Chapter Commander Bill Jones. “You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t get to you. You just have to get through it. Sometimes seeing the loved ones kills you inside, but all of us on the Honor Guard have a sense of duty and commitment to our fallen comrade to honor them.”