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Old guard gives fellow vets an honorable final farewell
Culpeper, Va., veterans are assisting with funerals for area World War II veterans as more than 1,000 die daily in the United States and the federal government does its best to provide proper services.
In blazing heat and freezing cold, volunteers stand at attention as the hearse pulls up to Culpeper National Cemetery.
At graveside, they ceremoniously fold the flag and present it to the family. They also give the traditional 21-gun salute before a bugler plays taps.
They fought in the same trenches in Europe and the Pacific and shivered in the same mountains of Korea as those they mourn.
Sometimes, Mr. Foster’s voice cracks slightly when he looks into the eyes of the bereaved and thanks them “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
“Somebody has to be there to do it,” said Mr. Foster, one of the youngest members at 73. “I’d feel bad sitting here [at home] knowing some family needs help, and I didn’t do anything to help them.”
Roger Harding, 81, a World War II vet, said he considers the duty an honor that gives families “some closure and satisfaction.”
Still, it is tough for the aging warriors.
For men with arthritic knees or bad backs, standing at attention on concrete while two or three ministers take turns speaking takes its toll. Multiply that by 1,110 funerals.
Still, most members don’t miss a service unless they are on vacation or have a doctor’s appointment.
On a recent Friday, Robert Earhart Jr. of Tampa, Fla., thanked the volunteers on behalf of his late father, Robert.
By John R. Bolton
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