Polar temperatures canceled school, but at cemeteries across the area the Amherst Veterans Military Honor Guard held true.
In the bitter weather they held the line, standing last watch for their fallen comrades. They offered 21-gun salutes, played taps, and said the soldier’s prayer at four funerals this week in memory of those who served in uniform.
“Kids get off school when it’s cold, which is the right thing to do, but we’re still doing our duties,” said honor guard spokesman John Sekletar.
With lows near zero and wind chill making it worse, the weather has been harsh for the 22 members of the guard, many of whom are in their 80s. Sekletar said nothing could keep them from paying their respects, though.
The honor guard is comprised of American Legion Post 118 members. In 2017, they stood final watch at 102 funerals.
The sacrifices made by the deceased are firmly fixed in the minds of the guard members. “This is personal,” Sekletar said. “This is a real person. He served in the Army or two tours in Vietnam, or in the Gulf. It’s personal, because this is someone who gave everything they had when they served.”
“This is personal because one of these days, I’m going to be there. I want someone to do this for me.”
He often thinks of the elite members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment from Fort Myer, Va., who stand watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
All are volunteers and it’s considered an honor to serve as a Tomb Guard. “The weather doesn’t really matter to them. Those guys are still out there doing it, no matter how bad it gets. It’s a purpose. They have a purpose and it’s a way to give back,” Sekletar said.
And that’s why the Amherst Veterans Military Honor Guard keeps watch when called upon — “We know how much it means to the families,” he said.
The Sons of the American Legion plan to recognize the guard with a private luncheon in their honor on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the newly-christened Greene Square Restaurant at Dragon Ranch Golf Club.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.