Article and photos by Glenn Adams
The Honor Guard was established to provide Military Honors in funeral services for veterans from any of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Western New York National Cemetery Honor Guard for Genesee County is looking for volunteers to help with that important task.
The National Cemetery, located in Pembroke, has become the final resting place for over 600 veterans so far this year. Opened late last year, it provides a place where loved ones can say their final farewells, and thereafter, visit the grave as often as they desire.
They average about 3 funerals a day there, Monday through Friday, and occasionally have one on Saturday. An Honor Guard is there in the summer heat, wintery blasts, and everything in between, honoring those who have given at least a part of their lives for their country.
I witnessed my first funeral there last week. The Honor Guard was on hand to do their part in making a difficult time a little easier for family and friends. John Case was there then, an ex-Marine He was laid to rest his father, who had served in the Air Force. The ritual flag folding, gun salutes, taps, and expressions of gratitude for his father’s service from a grateful nation, lent an air of gravity to the proceedings.
The Genesee County detail, which takes the Monday services, is made up of 47 volunteers, although the numbers dwindle as snowbirds leave for the south each fall, and other commitments take volunteers away from week to week. Tuesday’s Honor Guard is from Orleans County, Wednesday, from Wyoming County, Thursday from Erie County, and Friday’s Honor Guard is made up of Vets from the various surrounding counties served by the Cemetery. Carl Hyde, a Navy Veteran and in charge of the Genesee County Guard, tells me that the last Monday of each month is a service for unclaimed Vets.
But they need help from Veterans in the area who can give a little time to help the families of their fellow soldiers. Who can help out? Anyone with an honorable discharge from the military is eligible. You don’t need to be a part of any Veteran’s organization. There is no requirement for attendance each week. Some vets are only available once or twice a month. Right now they’re stretched pretty thin on some days, for the south is calling some for the winter, and none are getting any younger.
For more information on how you can help, stop by the Batavia American Legion, 8969 Alexander Rd on Saturday, October 9th from 1-4 pm or call Carl Hyde at 585.356.2658. If you are from another county, he can put you in touch with a person from your county to contact.