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Honor Guard has served community since 1956

| February 9, 2014
Ceremony: The Coshocton County Honor Guard provides military services at the funerals of veterans and also takes part in special ceremonies likes the ones held on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day at the court square. Beacon File Photo

Ceremony: The Coshocton County Honor Guard provides military services at the funerals of veterans and also takes part in special ceremonies likes the ones held on Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day at the court square. Beacon File Photo

COSHOCTON – The Coshocton County Honor Guard did its first military funeral on Dec. 7, 1956, and is still going strong.

“There were six of them at the funeral of James Squire who was a veteran of the Spanish American War,” said Jim Barstow, veterans’ service officer.

The Honor Guard now has more than 30 active members and averages about 20 people at the funerals of local veterans.

When a veteran passes away, the funeral directors ask the family if they would like a military service. If the family says yes, then the funeral homes call Barstow’s office, the Coshocton County Veterans Service Commission, so it can contact the members of the honor guard.

A typical graveside service includes a chaplain who reads a prayer, a commander to read information about the flag and present it to the next of kin, the officer of the day who orders the firing of three volleys and a bugler. Ideally there are seven people with rifles to fire the volleys and another member of the group with a rifle to stand guard of American, POW/MIA and Coshocton County Council flags being held by Honor Guard members. They also stand guard of someone holding the flag for the branch of service the veteran was in.

“Anyone extra can grab another flag (we have them for all branches of the service) or stand in rank and salute,” Barstow said.

The group also can just do a walk through at the funeral home, where they give the veteran a final salute and modify their graveside service to fit special requests.

“It’s all about what the family wants,” Barstow said.

The Honor Guard is an all volunteer organization that male and female veterans of all ages are encouraged to join.

“Currently we have one lady veteran, but we’d like to have more,” Barstow said.

He also was happy to see three younger veterans recently join the group, especially since majority of the members served in the military during the Vietnam War Era.

“I think part of the reason younger veterans aren’t joining is because they just don’t know about it and also in today’s society people are busy,” Barstow said. “Volunteering for something and dedicating yourself to it takes time.”

The Honor Guards commitment to a funeral usually takes about two hours and most of them are held during the day. Occasionally one will fall on the weekend.

“We’ve never really had an issue filling out the positions,” Barstow said. “The honor guard is a tremendous group.”

Families of deceased veterans also notice their dedication.

“I remember one time we had to split the guys up to cover two funerals and we ended up with about nine guys at each funeral,” Barstow said. “At the one I was at, a family member came up to me and asked if we always have that many people show up. I told them we typically have twice as many, but they were still impressed with us being at half strength.”

Honor Guard members also are responsible for coming dressed in uniform.

“We have a higher standard here than some do,” Barstow said. “Our uniform is black pants, white shirts and black jackets. You have to buy your pants, but the county council will provide you with your jacket, shirt and patches for them. It’s also preferred that you are a member of one of the posts so you get your garrison cap.”

Members also are responsible for getting their patches sewn on, but Barstow said after 10 funerals you are reimbursed for the cost.

Anyone wanting more information on joining the Honor Guard is welcome to stop by the Coshocton County Veterans Service Commission office in the basement of the court house on Main Street or call 622-2313. The Honor Guard is overseen by the Coshocton County Veterans Council, which Jack Patterson is the new commander of. He replaces the late Bill Pettit, who Barstow said took part in 900 funerals with the Honor Guard.

“His actual count was 899, but we voted to count his funeral as the 900th one he attended,” Patterson said.

Patterson himself has taken part in more than 500 funerals.

“This is a great way to honor veterans and show the families that we care,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to give one last recognition to the veteran for their service. I’m glad to be able to do it.”

The Honor Guard did 72 funerals in 2013 and did 14 in January of this year.

“I don’t see the Honor Guard ever becoming a thing of the past, at least not in our community,” Barstow said. “It may be a struggle to get new members, but we are getting them and they are dedicated. This group has left a legacy and I don’t foresee anything ever happening to it.”

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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