Late Guardsman saluted by ceremonial unit he helped found



Silence fell upon Main Street, or U.S. 50, through Brownstown on a clear, sunny Thursday morning.

All that could be heard were the flags at half-staff gently whipping in the wind, a drum being tapped and horses’ hooves hitting the pavement.

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People stood at attention as a flag-draped casket on a caisson was escorted down the street.

Once it turned down Bridge Street and stopped in front of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, kids on bicycles nearby watched in silence as the casket was carried into the church for a funeral.

About a half-hour later, the casket was placed back on the caisson, and the procession headed toward St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery. While passing Brownstown Central High School, construction workers removed their hard hats and stood in a line in silence.

At the cemetery, residents of a nearby apartment complex stood outside and watched as the casket was carried to the gravesite. The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps, and a folded flag was presented to the family.

Having been a member of the Military Department of Indiana Ceremonial Unit for 30 years, Craig Hoevener had participated in many of these types of processions.

This time, though, it was different. He’s now retired, and the procession July 26 was for his father, Leon Hoevener, who died July 20 at age 83.

Leon served in the Indiana Army National Guard for 42 years and nine months and was a founding member of the ceremonial unit in 1974. He wound up staying with the unit for about 20 years.

Craig retired in 2017 after 37 years and nine months with the National Guard and 30 years with the ceremonial unit.

“My final goal in my military career was to do this for him, and we always talked about it, and I told him, I said, ‘You will get this,’” Craig said. “It was just a passion that I respected my father so much for being a father and a military soldier … and to do this for him is such a great honor for me.”

It has taken time, though, for him to grasp the loss of his father.

“I still feel like he’s here with us, and he is because Dad was very religious and he believed in God so strongly, and I respected that, too,” Craig said. “To be honest with you, I’ve done this so many times, I felt like it was just doing another funeral. I tried to not be involved as much just so I could be with my family.”

From the Spurgeon Funeral Home staff to the members of the ceremonial unit, Loretta Hoevener said she received a lot of support through the loss of her husband.

“They were so helpful to me and so respectful,” she said. “It was a day I’ll always remember.”

Craig also was impressed by the members of the unit.

“I didn’t see one mistake,” he said. “That day, I can’t say that I saw a thing (wrong), and I watched it very close. That was a group that was definitely on top of their game.”

Seeing community members watch the procession was special, too.

“Some people told me it was the most beautiful funeral they have ever seen,” Loretta said.

During his time with the unit, Craig said there were times when no one came out to watch it. What he saw in Brownstown, however, was “a small-town type of respect.”

“I’ll have to say I’ve never seen that as much, and I’m so proud of this small town and the people that live here now,” he said. “I’ve got a whole different outlook.”

Leon was born Oct. 28, 1934, in Tampico. After graduating from high school in 1952, he enlisted in the military and joined the Army National Guard in Seymour.

That night, his cousin had arranged for him to meet Loretta. Leon wound up going to Stout Field in Indianapolis to work, and Loretta went to college to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

On Aug. 6, 1955, they were married at Tampico Baptist Church.

Leon served as a federal technician and also was a chief warrant officer 4 and manager of Transportation Motor Pool until he retired in 1989. Loretta was a teacher in Indianapolis for 32½ years.

Leon was called back to active duty in 1991 and retired Oct. 31, 1994, after serving in support of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. When he retired, he was a W4, which at the time was the highest warrant officer rank. Craig said a warrant officer is tactically and technically proficient in their branch of service.

Leon was a member of the Governor’s Honor Guard and received several federal awards, including Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Component Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon and Army Service Medal.

He also received several state awards, including Indiana Distinguished Service Medal, Indiana Commendation Medal, Indiana Long Service Medal, Indiana Emergency Service Ribbon and Assistant Chief of Staff Badge.

After Leon’s death, Loretta said she heard stories about how powerful he was in his field.

“I said, ‘I’m glad you told me that because when he came home, he was just an ordinary man,’” she said. “He might bring a medal home, and I’d say, ‘What’s that?’ and he would tell me, but he never bragged or anything. I didn’t know what all he did, either.”

Craig said his father was the foundation of the family.

“He sat back like the lion, never saying a word, as mom worked the everyday business with the family,” he said. “Growing, up my brother and I never questioned. If he told us to do something, we didn’t ask why. If we weren’t doing homework, we were on detail.”

Craig said his dad was a devout Lutheran but never pushed his faith on anyone, and he was serious about being in the military.

“He was very humble, never self-advertised,” Craig said. “When he was in uniform, he was squared away.”

As Craig was going through high school, he said his father constantly asked him what he wanted to do after graduation. Even though Craig wanted to go to college, Leon talked him into joining the National Guard.

Leon swore in his son in 1979, and Craig later joined the ceremonial unit.

“I was so proud because I’m walking in my father’s footsteps,” Craig said.

He went up through the ranks in the National Guard and in 1997 became an officer, and his father swore him in again.

In his 30 years with the ceremonial unit, Craig estimated doing between 50 and 75 events per year. When he retired in 2017, he was the longest active member to date.

Every year, the unit has an awards banquet to recognize those who serve. Section leaders nominate people for awards, and one award is named the CW4 Leon A. Hoevener Color Guard Award.

The last banquet he attended before retiring, Craig wanted his dad to go to give out the award. Craig nominated his noncommissioned officer in charge, but they turned the tables on Craig and presented it to him.

Like the recent funeral for his father, it’s something Craig will never forget.

“I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “It just blew my mind, but I was very honored to get my father’s award. It meant so much to me.”

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To read Leon Hoevener’s obituary, visit


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