Commentary by Lt. Col. Michael Manor
1st Space Operations Squadron commander
When veterans are asked about their time in the military, service is the one word that will undoubtedly come up. Phrases, such as “I served in (fill in name of the branch)” or “I served during (fill in the name of the war/conflict),” are common. That’s because service is at the heart of why each of us joined the military and is no doubt, well understood in the context of our core values. The long hours, the challenges and even the deployments are tangible reminders of what it means to make good on the ideal of Service Before Self. Yet, I think there’s an element of service that transcends our military duties and involves helping those in our local community.
I had the privilege of seeing such service on a recent trip to visit my parents in Carson City, Nev. My father is a proud member and honor guard commander of American Legion Post 56. The honor guard consists of former members of all the services and has performed more than 300 funerals since its creation in 2007. I took a trip into the desert with my dad and the team to watch them perform honors for a World War II veteran. The honor guard is an incredible group of Americans, from the bugler who bailed out of not one, but two bombers in the South Pacific during World War II to the three riflemen who fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Some were Air Force, others Army and Navy, all with a look of equal distinction from their matching dress blues and grey hair. None was younger than 60 years old.
The cemetery was nearly treeless with limited shade to protect those in attendance from the 95-degree heat. I watched in amazement as the honor guard stood without motion in this heat for nearly an hour until it was their time to execute a perfectly timed 21-gun salute and play taps. The team also performed the flag fold with equal precision and my dad handed the flag to the veteran’s family with honest and sincere thanks. The group’s complete dedication to pull off such a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding event rivaled that of our active-duty teams with members about a third of these gentlemen’s age. In addition, these gentlemen were all volunteering their time without receiving any compensation for their efforts.
The particular veteran the team was honoring had only served in the Army for about two years during World War II, yet the eulogy and his family’s words made it clear those two years were some of the most important in his life. He had been a boxer, a businessman and he fought for our country when our country needed him most. Of all this great man was in his lifetime, it became clear to me he may have never received the honors he deserved if it hadn’t been for the efforts of these volunteer senior citizens from Post 56.
The call to serve others goes beyond our military duties. The vast amounts of talent, energy and dedication found within our active-duty ranks is unsurpassed and can quite literally move mountains. The great Americans in the Post 56 Honor Guard who continue to make sacrifices to serve others are a reminder that it’s up to each and every one of us to seek out opportunities to serve others. Even the smallest acts often leave a lasting impression on those you help and even on those lucky enough to bear witness.