- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Never again shall a Naperville military veteran be laid to rest without full military honors.

That’s the hope of 69-year-old Vietnam veteran Jim Oftedal and several members of the city’s VFW and American Legion posts who, together, have formed the Naperville Judd Kendall VFW and American Legion Post 43 Honor Guard.

All Naperville veterans, whose families request it, can have full military honors at their funeral, including a three-round volley and flag presentation.

Oftedal said he began questioning why Naperville didn’t have such an option for veterans about a year ago after attending a service that featured such honors for his father-in-law, who was a World War II bomber pilot.

“It was in November. The snow was flying and it was just an awesome experience to be a part of and have that for the deceased veteran,” Oftedal said. “I brought the idea to my quartermaster at the VFW and then I was assigned to form a group here.”

The honor guard, as it stands now, has 12 members, 10 riflemen to fire the a three-round volley, a bugler and a trumpeter. Oftedal commands the ceremony and is responsible for delivering the flag and three casings, each representing a volley, to the fallen veteran’s family.

The group was trained last fall by a representative for the Department of Defense before being certified by the department last October.

Training included mastering the precise movements of a military burial service, execution, what to say and how to fold the flag.

“Everything has to be perfect, from the angles of arms while saluting to our marching, to the folding of the flag. It is not just a walk in the park, it’s extremely difficult,” Oftedal said. “(The flag) has to end up being with the four stars on the bottom. If it’s not done that way, it should be refolded.”

To make sure they’ve got it down, the group, mostly comprised of Vietnam veterans, practices twice a month at the VFW.

“The more we practice, the better our movements are in unison,” he said.

Even bugler Rich Yndestad makes sure his notes are perfect.

“As far as ‘Taps’ is concerned, it’s a final salute to honor the veteran,” Yndestad said. “It’s only 24 notes, but it sinks deep into the hearts of everyone who hears it, so it’s got to be perfect.”

All of the volunteers say they get an indescribable feeling when they perform the ceremony. So far the group has served at eight and two more are scheduled in the coming days.

“We just did one Saturday. It was pouring rain and I was so impressed. Here’s us old farts standing in the rain and not moving, kind of like the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when he was there through a typhoon,” said volunteer and Vietnam veteran Rich Goulet. “Saturday was like our typhoon. It showed the dedication of all the guys and the esprit de corps, if you will. We’re just ordinary people, but we’re doing what I think is an extraordinary thing for some extraordinary people. It’s just a hell of a feeling. It really is.”

Guard member Russell Petry, also a Vietnam veteran, said he is happy to learn that word of their service is spreading through the community. He hopes it will lead to more opportunities to serve but also to expand the honor guard to include a full band, “the whole enchilada.”

“This is a very moving, emotional thing we’re doing. It touches peoples’ lives like they’ve never been touched before,” Petry said. “Every single serviceman or woman is entitled to this exercise or detail and a lot of them don’t know this or many other services are available to them.”

All a family member has to do, Oftedal said, is let the funeral home know they would like a military honor guard and they’ll show up.

“The fact that we do a military funeral service for any veteran is unconditional,” he said. “That’s what we do.”


Source: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/1XT4CIe


Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com

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