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Tri-State memorial team in desperate need of younger veterans amid record number of military funerals

folded flag military funeral
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 03, 2022

CINCINNATI — There’s something very distinct about the sounds during a military funeral. From the rifle salute to taps, the military command and ceremonial structure of it all lead to the presentation of a folded American flag to a loved one to say a final thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.

“I think all the veterans we bury, they earned it, they deserve it,” Kenneth Huber said. “We’re going to make sure he or she receives full military honors.”

Huber is the commander of the Southwest Ohio VFW Memorial Team. On any given day, he and his fellow 10 to 12 members volunteer to present veterans their final salute and gratitude on behalf of our country. The team has been doing this since 1966 and the number of funerals they are presiding over is at an all-time high.

“Last year we did 201 and that was a record,” Huber said.

The process can be daunting for members, some of whom are in their 80s, walking through the rain, snow and blazing sun to present the colors, fire off the rifles and pay those final respects.

“When you kneel down in front of a widow and you’re so close you can smell her tears and you hand her that flag, it changes you — it’s changed me for the better,” Huber said.

The problem is the team is already on pace to do more than 201 funerals in 2022 and they’re in desperate need of younger veterans willing to volunteer their time to help these ceremonies continue.

“We don’t want this team to go away because if we don’t do it, there’s not going to be anyone else doing it,” said Danny Wright, senior vice commander of the memorial team.

Wright has been volunteering with the team for four years and joined after attending the funeral of his wife’s uncle, where the team presided.

“Because they were so professional, so detailed, compassion and sincere," Wright said. "I just thought I wanted to be part of that to help provide support to veterans."

Randy Fannin also joined after seeing the group in action and knew as a minister this was his way to continue serving after the Army.

“It becomes part of our DNA and when you see that I may not still be in the uniform, there’s something I can still do that means something to a family whose loved ones served at one point in time,” Fannin said. “Connecting with people is probably the most important thing we do.”

They hope to be able to continue to offer up that connection and closure for a family, but without more volunteers, their concern is that the bugle-horn and rifles could go silent.

If you’re an honorably discharged veteran and would like to find out more about joining the team you can email Kenneth Huber kvhuber@yahoo.com.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.