While the rendering of military funeral honors have been discontinued until further notice at all Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the honors continue to be carried out at cemeteries throughout Delaware County.
The local Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 1095 Honor Guard has instituted added precautions while carrying out military funeral honors to ensure everyone’s safety.
“We like to practice safety, health and cleanliness,” said VVA Chapter 1095 President Harold Wolford.
Wolford, who served in the United States Army from 1970-73, said the honor guard stands 70 feet away from the graveside service and those in attendance. As an additional measure, he said those in the honor guard firing party are spreading out further in their firing line as a way of practicing social distancing.
Honors performed by the honor guard at the funeral of a veteran include a three-shot rifle volley by the firing party, which Wolford said is often mistakenly referred to as a 21-gun salute. He said the rifle volleys can be done by either three, five or seven rifles on the firing line; 21-gun salutes are reserved for heads of state and are carried out by Navy warship artillery, not rifles.
Following the volley, “Taps” is played by a bugler before the American flag draped over the casket is folded and presented to the family of the deceased.
“We’re not ignoring any health issues or concerns,” Wolford said. “When we started with this outbreak, I did check with Sheriff (Russell) Martin and he said it is not an issue that we continue to do funerals.”
Although some honor guards are taking added precautions while carrying out military funeral honors during the pandemic, Wolford said there are some who are not doing the services due to health and safety concerns.
He added the VVA Chapter 1095 Honor Guard consists of 15 members, and there are generally six to eight members currently partaking in the services amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
Wolford said the local VVA honor guard, which was chartered in 2014, helped to fill the gap of the Delaware County Veterans Association when it was unable to do a funeral, perhaps because there were multiple services to attend in a particular day.
“You can’t have too many honor guards, so we did it to help pick up the slack,” Wolford said. “We get called a lot for Vietnam veterans, naturally.”
Wolford and the honor guard attended two funerals Thursday. He said oftentimes, the funeral homes will work with families of veterans holding services on the same day to ensure an honor guard can attend both ceremonies.
For veterans wishing to become members of VVA Chapter 1095, email Wolford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.