Fort Bragg welcomed a group of unique veterans last Thursday. Members of the Florence, South Carolina Veterans Honor Guard spent the day touring several Fort Bragg facilities.
The Veterans Honor Guard is a group of volunteer veterans who have made it their responsibility to ensure that all deceased veterans in a 30-mile radius of Florence can be laid to rest with the full military honors they are due.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Stella Miller became involved in the Veterans Honor Guard because she feels the meaning of a military member’s service and the sacrifice involved should be visible and acknowledged.
“People need to understand that there was a sacrifice, and they need to see that and they need to see that someone honors that. When we call it the last salute, that’s what we mean. It’s our privilege to offer a final salute,” explained Miller.
The group includes 39 individuals who have retired or previously served in the military, representing all branches of service.
Retired Staff Sgt. Nick Lee, U.S. Air Force, explained the group makes sure that the funerals of any local veterans receive all the pomp and circumstance of a formal military funeral, even though, in Florence, they are far from military installations.
“We dress out completely, each in his own rank, in his own military uniform … We perform the 13 folds, the 21-gun volley, taps and the fold present,” said Lee.
The group carries out the final salute at over 150 funerals per year. Current members said they have participated in 128 funerals thus far this year.
Former service members are eligible to have the Veterans Honor Guard provide a military salute regardless of the length of time served.
“If he’s got an honorable discharge, we give him full service, a full salute,” said Retired Col. Wayne Jackson, USAF.
The Fort Bragg tour included a stop at the Parachute Packing Facility, the 82nd Airborne Division Museum, a stop for lunch at the 2nd Brigade Combat Team/18th Fires Brigade Dining Facility and a visit to the Virtual Training Facility on Longstreet Road.
The purpose of the trip was to keep members of the Veterans Honor Guard linked to the service and lives of those they serve in death.
“It keeps us connected to the mission and it is also a morale booster for the guys … To get out and have some camaraderie together and see what’s happened in the service since they got out,” explained Jackson.