New members sought for local honor guard

The honor guard for the American Legion Post 89 in Seymour is looking for more people to join the group to help with military funeral honor services.

According to a federal law passed in 1999, families of fallen veterans may request military honors for a funeral free of charge. These honors include “Taps” being played by a bugler and the presentation of a U.S. burial flag.

American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts across the country have honor guards to assist with veteran funerals.

The American Legion Post 89, located on West Second Street, has been around for 101 years and has spawned generations of honor guard members.

Last year, the post’s honor guard served at 84 funeral services for veterans. Since the beginning of this year, they already have been called to serve at three funerals.

The honor guard also participates in ceremonies at local cemeteries on Memorial Day and at Gaiser Park in Seymour for Veterans Day.

The honor guard currently has 12 members but ideally would like to have 13 for a proper service. The number of members required for a funeral fluctuates depending on the occasion.

Members of the honor guard may be asked to travel when a funeral for a veteran from Jackson County is buried elsewhere. The honor guard sometimes even ventures to the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Madison to conduct military rites.

Two 12-passenger vans are provided by the American Legion for transportation.

American Legion Post 89 honor guard member Jim Tracey said members aren’t required at every funeral, and they don’t show up all of the time.

He said it’s not a requirement for someone to be a veteran to help with the honor guard, but all current and past members have been veterans. The group is a mix of veterans who are career military and some who aren’t.

“Show (up) when you can and help out,” Tracey said. “That’s what we need. We need some help.”

The funeral service the honor guard provides is not performance art, Tracey said, but more of a casual affair focused on honoring the fallen.

“This isn’t a snap detail kind of precision performance that we do,” he said. “It’s pretty much just casual and requested by families.”

Tracey said he has been working funeral detail for 49 years. He encourages anyone interested in joining the honor guard to call the American Legion and see when the next funeral is to see how a ceremony is handled.

“Military rites will be conducted” will be in an obituary if an honor guard program will happen at a funeral.

The port arms, present arms, left face and right face military positions also will be taught, Tracey said, but are easy to learn.

The American Legion provides a shirt, a tie, a jacket, a hat and a name tag. Winter jackets, raincoats and trench coats also are available.

Calls are sporadic as for when the honor guard will perform for a funeral but tend to be weekly.

New members are asked to provide a pair of dress pants and shoes, and brief training is done on the day of the funeral.

“All you’ve got to do is step forward, aim and shoot,” said honor guard member Rick Roberts. “That’s pretty much it.”

Roberts said it was important to provide funeral details to veteran funerals because it is a privilege for those who have served.

“It doesn’t seem like much of a deal, but the families sure do appreciate what we do out there,” he said.

Honor guard member Mike Rebber said he has been serving in the honor guard since 1984, and he has been performing for funerals for so long to give back to those who have served.

“I think it’s the last thing that veterans can do for the family,” he said.

To join the American Legion Post 89 honor guard, call the post at 812-522-1846 and leave a message with a phone number.