On Saturday, during the blizzard, the Duluth Honor Guard served two families. I often say facetiously that we are more reliable than the U.S. Postal Service.
We were at our second funeral when the weather became more severe. I approached the pastor and asked if it would be all right if we presented not in the sanctuary but in the narthex. This was mainly to keep the grieving family inside for as long as possible for the flag presentation and out of the terribly inclement weather. It was also so the flag would not get wet and have to be unfolded to dry out to avoid molding.
“It is our policy that everything is to be done outside,” the pastor replied.
Now, Duluth Honor Guard members have no problem sacrificing our time, talent, and money to support our grieving families. I have even stated to guard members that there is an element of suffering and discomfort that will be asked of them. We are all fine with this condition.
My complaint is with churches that are not pro-military and have judged us by our military service. I would ask that they don’t punish the families of deceased military members due to their ideologies and beliefs.
On Saturday, I watched a poor widow huddled up and curled into her loved ones as wind and snow pelted their faces. For us to perform the rifle salute and TAPS is not a tremendous amount of time. The flag folding, in windy conditions, takes longer, however, to ensure a proper fold.
If there is penance to be paid, we with the Honor Guard will pay it. If a church does not want us inside, we will respect that. But if a grieving family is going to be punished, I would ask churches to consider making exceptions to policies, particularly during times of inclement weather. We really would like to have a more favorable view and relationship with some churches, but the human condition is what it is.
As I have stated in the past, if a family requests military honors, we, by law, have to provide that by any means necessary through the active military and authorized providers.
After surviving severe abuse, assaults, war, and cancers, my only desire is to serve God, my fellow man, and community. Others’ ill intentions anger me.
That being said, I’d like to end with a quote I live by: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
John Marshall is captain of the Duluth Honor Guard.