2017-06-28 / Front Page

Honor Guard remembers our veterans

by Trish Rudder

Tri-State Honor Guard 2017 members, front row, left to right: Max McCallister, Benny Martin and Lori Kiley. Back row: Jim Proffitt, Gil Kerr, Robert Layton, Doug Weller, Edward Smith, Tom Kiley, Mike Cooper, Carl Blevins and Dave Rose. Tri-State Honor Guard 2017 members, front row, left to right: Max McCallister, Benny Martin and Lori Kiley. Back row: Jim Proffitt, Gil Kerr, Robert Layton, Doug Weller, Edward Smith, Tom Kiley, Mike Cooper, Carl Blevins and Dave Rose.
Celebrating our freedom on the Fourth of July is a reminder of those who served our country to keep us free. It also reminds us of a group of volunteers who provide funeral honors to veterans. Here, they are known as the Tri-State Honor Guard.

An honor guard is a ceremonial unit that provides several functions. In addition to providing funeral honors to veterans, it also is the “guardians of the colors” by displaying and escorting the national flag on ceremonial occasions, including local parades, said Jim Proffitt, honor guard commander.

The Tri-State Honor Guard has members from the American Legion in Berkeley Springs (the Alderton Dawson, WV Post 60) and the American Legion Post 26 in Hancock, Md., as well as members from Pennsylvania.

The Tri-State Honor Guard patch worn on the uniform. The Tri-State Honor Guard patch worn on the uniform. The majority of its members are from Post 60 and all the honor guard equipment is stored there, said honor guard member Mike Cooper.

Post 60 was established in 1929 and named after two World War I veterans -- Marion Leroy Alderton and Dayton L. Dawson. Both were killed in France in 1918.

Another branch to help support veterans is the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 60, which was established in 1950, said honor guard member Lori Kiley, who serves as Legion Lady and is an Auxiliary member.

Honor guard member Doug Weller, who served in Vietnam in 1968, said the Tri-State Honor Guard “operates in this area based on what the funeral home wants.”

He said the Guard will travel as far west to Rocky Gap, Md. and east to Hagerstown, Md., and north to Needmore, Pa. It serves all of Morgan County, which is about 60% of the time. The honor guard also participated in a funeral in Virginia off Route 13, Proffitt said.

“It takes a lot of dedication to participate as an honor guard member,” said Vice-Commander Carl Blevins, a veteran who served during the Vietnam era.

Blevins said when his father died in 1955, he saw how dedicated the honor guard was from the American Legion in Pineville, in Wyoming County. He said his father was buried in a very remote area, “and the honor guard had to walk up a mountain.” Blevins said he was so moved by their dedication, he wanted to become an honor guard himself.

“It’s an honor,” guard member Dave Rose said, who also served during the Vietnam era.

Rose said the volunteers do not receive a salary. “We pay for being a part of the honor guard.”

“But we do appreciate donations,” said Proffitt, who is also the finance officer.

And those donations help pay for accessories, such as the white gloves and the patches, said Weller, who serves as quartermaster. Each pair of gloves cost $8 plus shipping, he said. All the members pay for their own gas and the upkeep of their uniforms.

Tom Kiley and his wife, Lori became honor guard members in November 2016. Tom Kiley spent four years in the Army’s Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) at Arlington, Va. National Cemetery.

As an honor guard in Arlington, he brought a lot of knowledge to the Legion in Berkeley Springs and recommended a Legion Lady be added to the group and was approved by Proffitt.

A Legion Lady is fashioned after the Arlington Ladies, who attend funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery “to make sure no soldier or veteran was buried alone,” Lori Kiley said.

During a funeral, after the American flag is folded and given to a family member, the Legion Lady presents the family with a packet symbolizing the loss of a veteran.

“It’s a privilege and honor to participate,” she said, “because they shared their veteran with us.”

Each packet contains cards of sympathy from the Post 60 Commander, Robert Meadows and from the Auxiliary, signed by Lori Kiley. It includes the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrea about the red poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the soil over soldiers’ graves in Flanders, along with a portion of Moina Michael’s 1918 poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith.”

Also included in the packet is a card with a penny glued on it to symbolize that the veteran will be honored: “A penny I leave to honor thee… you served to keep me free...”

The American Legion Post 60 Chaplain Christy Duckwall said it is symbolic when coins are left on a headstone or footstone of a veteran’s grave, and it is done to let family members know their loved one was visited by a veteran.

Tom and Lori Kiley also cleaned, varnished and resealed each of the 14 rifles the members use for “the firing of the volleys,” Tom Kiley said, when the honor guard “renders honors to the veteran,” according to the written protocol established by the Post 60 Honor Guard.

He said each rifle was broken down, the stocks were sanded, and they were varnished and protected against the elements. And white ceremonial slings were added.

The symbolic rifle called the Battlefield Cross was not touched, he said, and is displayed at the gravesite during the funeral ceremony, symbolizing the death of a fallen soldier.

“It’s an honor to serve and to serve with each other,” said Cooper, a veteran who served in Vietnam in 1969.

Proffitt is a Korean War veteran and has served in the Tri-State Honor Guard since 1995. He was the recipient of three Purple Hearts while serving in Korea with three separate shrapnel injuries in the knee, side and head. He said he also spent three months in a hospital for frostbite.

“We are all dedicated to serve, and we are dedicated to each other,” Proffitt said.

For more information about becoming a member of the Tri-State Honor Guard, call Proffitt at 304-258-6285.

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The Tri- State Honor Guard

The Tri- State Honor Guard also includes members from Post 222 in Clear Spring, MD and the Sons of the American Legion (S.A.L). Not pictured are Rev. Jeffery Hawbaker, Mike Nairn, and Gerald(Dumphy)Widmyer. It is a privilege for me to be a part of the wonderful organization and to stand beside these veterans who continue to serve all of us. Just a foot note: the name on the picture should read Carl Blevins as it does in the article. To all veterans past, present, and future Thank you...The Legion Lady, Lori Kiley