When Rifles Fire and the Bugle Sounds
Since 1966 the Southwest Ohio VFW Memorial Team has been honoring local veterans with a final tribute to their life and military service and providing their families with a moment of unforgettable closure. Under the direction of Commander Kenneth Huber, the team of 21 veteran volunteers performed over 200 Military Rites funeral services in 2021. In the past ten years the team has performed over 1500 military funerals in the tri-state area. Through heat and cold, rain and snow, they carried out their mission with incredible confidence and military precision. This team of aging veterans goes above and beyond the call of duty.
The team needs 12 members at each funeral to properly perform full military honors. According to Huber, “the military honors are usually performed during a graveside service. The commander
will say some words about the veteran’s service, and then the chaplain will give one prayer. Then we perform the flower ceremony, followed by a rifle volley. Our bugler plays Taps, we have the flag folding ceremony, and the flag is given to the next of kin.” When needed, the team has served as pallbearers.
“Our problem is numbers,” said Mark Brandon, member of the Southwest Ohio VFW Memorial Team. Unfortunately, our membership is dwindling as we get older. Being mainly comprised of retirees, several members have left the team for various reasons while a few others are recovering from medical issues.” Huber commented, “Because of the number of funerals we
attend, it’s not viable to have all our members perform services at all the funerals. As retired veterans age, we need more veterans to step up and volunteer for the team. If we cannot attract new members, the service we offer will no longer be available.”
Families must request these services through their Funeral Directors at the time of making burial arrangements. Proof of military service, such as a DD-214, is required. The team does not charge deceased veterans’ families, and no team member receives any compensation for his or her services. While the services are free, the team does accept donations to help cover their expenses.
It costs $500 to outfit each member with a uniform, including a raincoat and winter coat plus the cost of maintenance on equipment and the van to transport members of the team.
Huber said he’s gained a lot of friends through the team, and it’s given him a different look at
life. “There’s a lot of comradeship because we share a common bond. At one point in our lives, we all got on the bus to boot camp to be trained to go to an unknown place,” said Huber. He added, “When we bury veterans, we all think about those veterans as young people going off to war. And then, there we are with the honor to stand and say our final farewells. The families are so appreciative.”
The thank you cards the team receives are a source of continuous inspiration. One card read, “I wish to express our deepest thanks and gratitude for the honors the VFW Honor Guard members provided for our father. It was above and beyond our expectations and we were moved to tears by the entire service.” Another wrote, “Words cannot express how very much we treasured your memorial service for our father. Despite the freezing temperature, the presentation was unhurried, solemn, and lent dignity to our father.” And another, “We treasure the flag of the United States of America (That was presented to us) and the memories he shared with us of his service to our country.”
Huber commented, “When you hand that flag to the widow, widower, or family member, I think that is the most honorable thing you can do for a veteran. When the rifles fire and the bugle plays, it gets me every time. It’s gut wrenching.”
The Southwest Ohio VFW Memorial Team needs more veterans to join them to help provide the most rewarding experience one can provide to a grieving veterans family. If you are a veteran and are interested in joining the team, contact Kenneth Huber at 513-288-7429.