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The American Legion Honor Guard is a regular fixture at patriotic events and parades. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Honor Guard volunteers serve

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By Nick Longworth

Members of the Park Rapids American Legion often devote many aspects of their life to make sure their fellow brothers in the armed services are able to maintain a normal and happy life once returning home.

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A special organization within the American Legion, the Honor Guard, also wants to make sure they are properly honored during their passing and other important ceremonies.

The Honor Guard is a volunteer organization that works closely with other organizations as a part of the America Legion Post 212. Its members consist of members from the American Legion who would like to do more to honor their fellow brethren.

In an effort to honor fallen servicemen who fought in combat, the Honor Guard leads the act of “presenting the colors” – consisting of the American flag as well as the American Legion’s flag – at funerals honoring fallen servicemen and also similar ceremonies.

“We will go into services with the American and Post flags. A guard for each of those will lead a family into the church or event, and we will stand there at attention until the family is seated. We will offer a salute and say a silent prayer, and then be seated. At the end of the service, I will give the command to honor the colors. At that point we will rise and the color guard flag bearers will go retrieve their respective flags,” said Dave Traxler, Captain of the Park Rapids Honor Guard. Traxler says he has done “at least hundreds” of these presentations over his 10 year tenure.

“Two guards will follow them out and we will reform outside of the church. When the casket or the urn comes out, the color guard is given attention and then present in arms, which is rendering the hand salute. At that time the Post flag dips in honor and the American flag stays at attention, as it always will,” Traxler said.

The Honor Guard is completely volunteer run, with its members receiving no compensation. Showing their support for the community they represent, they also like to be present in the community at large.

“In Park Rapids, we have presented the colors for the MS Walk in Heartland Park and last year we did it for the governor’s fishing opener. We also lead the Fourth of July parade. We like to do it for a lot of community events and affairs,” Traxler said.

Traxler and fellow Honor Guard member Vern Massie see their ceremonious offerings as something more meaningful than simply being present at a ceremony or funeral.

“It’s a sense of service earned by our brothers in arms that they receive when they die. It’s to remind everyone that this flag represents our country. It’s the flag of our country, whether you agree or not with the current politics,” Traxler said.

“The flag represents everybody that lives here. Everything we do is under that flag. If you’re here it’s not just my flag or your flag; it’s everybody’s flag,” Traxler said.

“At some point in time down the road, I want someone to be there when my funeral is,” said Vern Massie, a member of the Honor Guard for nearly 30 years. He estimates he has done maybe 200 funerals over this time.

“I also want to pay respect to my fellow veterans. Respect for our colors and our veterans makes me feel good.”

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Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364
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