BRYAN We are losing our veterans at an alarming rate; nearly 600 a day. Many of them served during World War II, but in the last few years more of them have been Vietnam veterans. A group of local veterans, many years removed from their service to the country, are making the time to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.
It's not unusual to see a group of veterans sitting around the American Legion in Bryan. What makes this group unusual isn't the uniforms.
It's the guns.
The American Legion Honor Guard at post 159 is rendering honors. A final salute at a memorial service in Bryan. The guard will render honors at the funeral of a veteran anywhere within a 50 mile area, for free.
"When we bring a veteran to his last resting place, we want to honor that service," says David Marion. The retired US Army adviser during Vietnam leads the honor guard detail. He coordinates each detail at the request of funeral home directors.
On this day, a gun salute and taps.
Precision and detail are key. The guard must be in place well before they are called on. Sometimes, that means having to wait.
In those moments, these old soldiers still stand ready. They know that with each funeral they attend, there are less and less of their generation.
From August 2012 to July 31st of this year, the honor guard paid respects at 66 funerals. In just over two months, they have been to 25.
"This year may top what we were called for last year," admits Marion.
With the wind blowing, the firing line prepared to fire.
"Ready," shouts the commander of the detail. The line takes a step out.
"Aim." The line raises their rifles.
The shots from seven guns snaps through the wind.
A woman across the street flinches, stopped by the first shot as she walked to her car.
The last round echoes off the funeral home wall. The sound of bullet casings rattling on the concrete fill the void. Taps starts. The wind is still blowing.
"It's a privileged for us to be here, to honor the service, to provide some condolence to the family," says Marion.
These veterans all have regular jobs. Each makes the time to be apart of the detail. Knowing that the message is far more important.
"Those that went before us gave us a precious, precious gift of liberty," explains Marion.
"If we don't stand and do and learn and know that history, we could lose it."