Honor Guard Marks Christmas Holiday
Personal Recollections Bolsters Members’ Camaraderie
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
HARRISON – The American Legion Honor Guard got together Dec. 12 at Post 404 to celebrate not only the holidays, but also one another. Sons of the American Legion Commander Dick Vershave acted as host for the event, and guided attendees through recognition of their individual and collective accomplishments. One of the first items noted was that the Harrison Vietnam Veterans of America chapter is now the largest in the state.
“I’m sure that’s a big factor in the success of the Legion here, too,” Vershave said.
Joe Prato, VVA Commander, thanked the Honor Guard for being so good again this year.
“They’ve done a wonderful job for this post,” he said. “Some of our Vietnam veterans are into that and they enjoy doing it, so please keep up the good work.”
Honor Guard Commander Norm Schollott offered recognition to two people. One was Jane Vershave, who was thanked for her continued efforts in photographically chronicling virtually every community event in which the Honor Guard/Color Guard participates. The second recognition was for Patti Prato for her work on behalf of the organization.
Vershave went on to give kudos to Joe Bradley, whom he described as “a song unsung.”
“Joe, what a fantastic job you do within the community,” Vershave said. “Within the Freedom Park, within the Museum – you name it – Joe’s there with his wealth of items. Joe started collecting military items when he was 14 years old and has done ever since then.”
Several members spoke of their most memorable moments as a part of the organization. Joe Bradley noted that fellow Honor Guard member Ed Haynack is a veteran of World War II.
“My dad was in World War II,” Bradley said. “And I’m proud to be in the Honor Guard with you.”
Haynack said one of his most memorable moments comes during marching rehearsal when Bradley offers his best sound effects trumpet impression to keep march time.
Vershave said his best memory is recalling where the Honor Guard came from. He noted how the Honor Guard has expanded its presence from doing military funerals only to marching in the July 4 parade in Harrison, participating at Veterans Day and Memorial Day events at Veterans Freedom Park, doing grade schools, Little League, manning the Veterans Display at the fairgrounds, and participating at school events such as the Harrison High School’s Veterans Day program and the recent flag event during the Veterans Night football game.
“Many times I get calls that I have to say no to,” he said. “I get more calls than we’re really capable of doing, because we’re all volunteers. My proudest moment is getting involved throughout the community.”
One of the high points was the Honor Guard’s invitation to present the colors at the Capitol in Lansing. Vershave said it was decided to rent bus transportation, and a call was put out through the community for donations. He said the $4,000 that quickly came in was far more than needed for the trip, so the balance was used to purchase the light pole flags which line Harrison’s main streets.
This year, three Honor Guard members were again invited to Lansing, with this trip including breakfast and lunch with the legislators.
Tim Agin, president of the American Legion Riders motorcycle group, said his favorite moment was walking in the flags for the 2018 Snowball at the Harrison Moose Lodge. He offered an example of how the act of carrying and presenting flags is not so simple as it might seem.
“I learned the most important thing is don’t shove that eagle into the ceiling,” he said. “The memorial services, Veterans Day, and that day at the football field – that was way cool. I really enjoy it, and I’m honored that I was asked.”
Ken Spiegel offered no specific, humorous recollections. Instead, he offered a straight forward, sincere compliment.
“We have probably the best Honor Guard I’ve seen out of civilian people in my life,” Spiegel said. “And I used to train six U.S. Army Reserves and National Guard to do Honor Guards, so I really appreciate these people.”
Jan Adamski, who has the distinct honor and pleasure of being the Honor Guard’s official bugler, offered up some stories of times when there were technical difficulties with the horn’s electronics. She also noted an occasion when two buglers were needed at simultaneous funerals: that was a tricky situation, but with a bit of finesse they pulled it off.
Adamski also read aloud the following thank you letter the Honor Guard had received:
“I would like to thank you for your gift of $100 to the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Because of the support of generous donors like yourselves, Quilts of Valor has recorded awards of over 200,000 quilts. Your donation enables our dedicated volunteers to continue the mission to cover service members and veterans touched by war with a comforting and healing Quilt of Valor. We recently received this note from an award recipient:
“You need to understand what my Quilt of Valor means to me. Let me tell you some of my story. Before I received my Quilt of Valor, I had nightmares almost every night. I had to take medication, and I do not take meds. I received my Quilt of Valor and started sleeping with it. I no longer have nightmares and I no longer take medication to sleep. What you do matters a lot.”
Adamski went on to say that letter was from an Iraq/Afghanistan vet, and that the foundation’s monthly newsletter “THREADS” is available online at www.QOVF.org.
Judy Tritten informed the group that she would be stepping down as state coordinator for QOVF as of Jan. 1 in order to become more active locally, adding that the local group The Mitten Brigade would be continuing. She said the American Legion has agreed to host the next QOVF National Sew Day, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 2. She encouraged anyone who wants to sew, or simply help out and have fun, to attend the National Sew Day event.
Leslie Walters, who along with Jacki Bradley and Lisa Waltmeyer, has taken on the work of awarding Quilts of Valor encouraged anyone who knew of a veteran who had not received one to submit their name and branch of service and years of service to her so she could submit them to the foundation.
The Honor Guard this year opted to do a promotion as a way to thank the community for its support. However, the group’s raffle didn’t seek donations from businesses. Instead, the $25 coupons from seven restaurants were purchased.
“We chose to go that direction,” Vershave said. “So it cost us $175 for the tickets and $15 for a license and we made over $1,000. It was just a matter of getting out and selling some tickets.”
When it came time to do the raffle drawing, the ticket drawn was No. 00056, which listed a name but no phone number. A second back-up ticket was drawn in case the first person could not be reached.
In all, the Honor Guard’s holiday dinner provided a proper topping off of a year filled with obligations met, and visions fulfilled – all while treasuring every member’s contributions to the organization and the community.
To learn more about American Legion Post 404 and its affiliated organizations, visit www.404americanlegion.org.