East Grand Forks Honor Guard finds meaning in ceremony
The military bugle playing taps can send Terry Buraas back in time, he said. Buraas, a member of the American Legion Post 157 honor guard in East Grand Forks, hears the melancholy call about 40 to 60 times a year. That's how often he attends mili...
The military bugle playing taps can send Terry Buraas back in time, he said.
Buraas, a member of the American Legion Post 157 honor guard in East Grand Forks, hears the melancholy call about 40 to 60 times a year. That's how often he attends military funeral ceremonies.
"It means a lot because of what you go through," he said. "I was in combat, but not everybody was. ... Being a veteran, you know what goes through everybody's mind when you're out in a foxhole."
Members of the American Legion and VFW Post 3817 held a ritual firing Monday during a Memorial Day ceremony at Resurrection Cemetery in East Grand Forks. Buraas joined several residents who listened to readings of a prayer, the history behind the holiday and the names of 34 fallen members of the military.
Honor guard members say funeral ceremonies are the least they can do for veterans. Buraas was eligible for membership after fighting in the Vietnam War from 1968-1971.
"It's an honor to do it," he said. "It's one of the most powerful things you can do for a deceased veteran."
Of the 800 or so American Legion members, about 15 are honor guard, and members put on funerals for any veteran, they said.
"Just because you don't pay dues at our club doesn't mean we won't do your funeral for you," Baraas said.
At each funeral, military officials present an American flag to the next of kin and honor guard members fire a three-volley salute, which originated as a ceasefire for both sides to clear the dead from the battlefield, said Lyle Rose, assistant sergeant of arms for Post 157.
"Most (used to view) the volleys as an announcement to the afterlife-here comes a real warrior," he said.
Like Buraas, he said the bugle call is one of the most meaningful parts of the ceremony, both for honor guard members and families. Once he hears it, he starts thinking of some stories U.S. Marine vets told about World War II, when Allied and Japanese forces fought on and around the Solomon Islands, he said.
"They sat on Guadalcanal for weeks, eating rice that had been used for sandbags," he said.
Some honor guard members participate in ceremonies as they struggle with illness like cancer-or, in one case, blindness. But the hardest part is putting on funerals for people they know, they said.
Buraas said he broke down a little giving a speech for a longtime chaplain he knew, while Rose, who taught in Buxton, N.D., after his experience in the U.S. Army Reserve, had to present a flag to one of his former students.
"Both his mother and father were gone, and he was 17 years old," he said. "You just felt for him-he was all alone."
Buraas and Rose said the ceremonies are a small sacrifice in exchange for what the nation has received.
"These people have done a tremendous service for our country," said Rose.