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Sun, Dec. 08

Prescott’s American Legion Honor Guard honored to serve those who served the nation

Norm Weister, a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran and hospice patient, recently was treated to an Honor Guard Celebration of Life at his home. Maggie’s Hospice Chaplain Kermit Hunt said Norm’s gratitude touched all of those in attendance. Weister said, “How many men get to meet their honor guard before they die?” “This moment really touched his heart,” Hunt said. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Norm Weister, a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran and hospice patient, recently was treated to an Honor Guard Celebration of Life at his home. Maggie’s Hospice Chaplain Kermit Hunt said Norm’s gratitude touched all of those in attendance. Weister said, “How many men get to meet their honor guard before they die?” “This moment really touched his heart,” Hunt said. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

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The gentleman rising from seat to be saluted by Honor Guard member Nolan Fletcher (striped shirt) is the late Bill Kevern, a World War II Navy veteran whose cremains will be placed in the Wall of Honor at the Prescott National Cemetery on June 13. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

On most days of the year, sometimes multiple times in a day, members of the American Legion Post 6 Honor Guard pay tribute to their fellow veterans, whether as a last salute in the final stages of life or as an eternal farewell delivered at their burial in the Prescott National Cemetery or elsewhere.

These 17 men and women also attend parades and veteran memorial events, be it in their home community or another Arizona city or town.

Their motives: to offer a dignified, respectful thank you to those who selflessly served America in times of war and peace.

“I feel it’s the least I can do for my brothers and sisters,” said Sherm Scott, a United States Navy veteran who served between 1972 and 1981 and was the 10th to join when the guard was founded in 1995.

The American Legion Post 6 Honor Guard can be reached at 928-778-6288

Guard Capt. Dan Tillmans said he joined 19 years ago because he has long felt guilty that in his two years of service in the United States Army — 1963 to 1965 — he was never assigned to combat and felt he owed it to those who did to give them the honor they deserve in their final chapter. He, too, wants to model to others the respect he believes is due to all veterans of this nation.

The Honor Guard’s presence at an average of 295 services a year is offered at no charge to families, and is most often requested because their loved ones want to showcase their veteran’s patriotism, Tillmans said. For those occasions, five to 10 guard members volunteer to conduct military honors that include presenting a properly folded American flag to the next of kin, a three-volley rifle salute and the performance of “Taps,” he explained.

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The Honor Guard’s 1991 van at American Legion Post 6. On the left is Honor Guard Capt.ain Dan Tillmans and right is Lt. Sherm Scott. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Maggie’s Hospice Chaplain Kermit Hunt in Prescott praises the behind-the-scene commitment that has guard members coming to visit ailing and aging veterans in their final stages of life, a tribute he said is a “blessing” to the veteran, their loved ones and the hospice staff who witness the intimate ceremonies.

As a chaplain, Hunt said he regularly tells staff and hospice care families that the most important gifts in life are the relationships that come from “loving and caring for others.”

“I always emphasize that in end-of-life matters, we only get one good opportunity to get it wonderfully right for this patient and their family,” Hunt said.

Hunt said he appreciates that the Honor Guard has adopted the philosophy into its credo.

Scott and Tillmans said they consider it a privilege, and personal blessing, to offer military honors to any and all northern Arizona veterans and their families.

“I tear up, frequently,” Tillmans said. “Each and every (service) is very special.”

Tillmans and Scott said they may not know these veterans, personally, but they are their “brothers and sisters” because the minute a man or woman puts on the uniform for a branch of the United States military they are joining a new family that will be with them until their final farewell.

“I come away feeling proud, with a warm feeling in my gut,” Tilllmans said of enabling still-living veterans to reflect on memories of when they answered their call to duty.

VA Public Affairs Officer Mary Dillinger also heaped praise on the Honor Guard members.

“We are so grateful that they are willing and able to attend all of our veteran events,” Dillinger said. “The veterans love it, the staff love it, and they are always professional and really good at what they do.”

During a recent visit at the post, Hunt said the guard’s willingness to celebrate these men and women, particularly those in hospice care, “just means everything to these (veterans).”

In honor of them, Hunt said he hopes to raise awareness about their efforts — all services are offered on a volunteer basis at no charge. New members are welcome — most Guard volunteers are retirees.

Hunt, too, hopes to generate some practical help.

The Honor Guard’s 1991 van is no longer adequate for its needs, Hunt said. On the wish list is a reliable, 15-member passenger van able to accommodate members and equipment on their travels. One anonymous benefactor has pledged $2,000 and a new rifle that can be sold with the proceeds to help defray costs for the vehicle.

Hunt, too, intends to organize a banquet to thank the Guard for all they do for the community.

“I could brag about you all day long,” Hunt declared. “It’s our turn to honor them.”

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