Honor guards needed for National Cemetery

Mark Gutman/Daily NewsA gun salute was part of the ceremony at the Batavia VA at a past ceremony.

BATAVIA — The Western New York National Cemetery Honor Guard for Genesee County — and similar groups for other Western New York counties — are in need of volunteers to join, Genesee County veterans representatives say.

These honor guards are planning to assist during burial ceremonies for veterans once the cemetery at 1254 Indian Falls Rd. in Corfu starts holding burials.

“We have had several meetings, starting to developing an honor guard for the cemetery once it opens up. My suggestion was to have a multi-county honor guard,” said Genesee County Veterans Service Agency Director William Joyce. “That way when they do open up it will be ready to go. What we’re doing now is getting names submitted to me for this guard.”

Joyce said he is collecting the names of those who are interested in participating.

“Right now Carl Hyde Jr. is going to be the officer-in-charge. He’ll contact these names I’m getting together for the first burial when the cemetery opens,”

Joyce said the goal is for each county in Western New York to have an officer-in-charge for that county. He said once that list is established, he will send it to Department of Veterans Affairs Management Analyst Brooke Tinaglia.

“In the surrounding counties. plus this one here, we have multiple vets organizations. It would be one point of contact per county for Brooke to contact,” Joyce said of the officer-in-charge. Hyde said to join an honor guard, a veteran must have been honorably discharged from a branch of the U.S. military. Veterans who join don’t have to belong to any American Legion or VFW, or other veterans’ organization.

Aside from the National Cemetery Honor Guard in Genesee County, the county needs volunteers for its Joint Veterans Honor Guard. The officer-in-charge is Jim Neider.

“The Joint Veterans Honor Guard (JVHG) of Genesee County, along with other honor guards from across the region, will be helping in providing honors for these fallen heroes,” Hyde wrote in a Facebook post. In addition, the JVHG will continue to provide honors for veteran burials in local cemeteries. This takes members to provide this vital service to the families of these deceased veterans. Recently, our organization (JVHG) has been hit hard by a combination of members ‘aging out,’ medical issues, relocations, deaths, etc. This has left us short of people at times. But we are determined to continue on with our mission.”

Hyde said this is the JVHG’s 13th year of providing services at area veterans’ burial ceremonies.

“We have provided honors for nearly 600 funerals during that time. However, it is getting more difficult to meet what we consider our sacred obligation. We are calling upon the veterans of Genesee County for help. We need individual veterans to step forward and serve once again. There are no fees or dues-just commitment to serve,” he wrote.

Those interested in joining may leave their names and contact information with the Batavia American Legion Post at (585) 343-0085 or dropping their information off at the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332, 8960 Alexander Rd. in Batavia, after 4 p.m. Fridays or after 2 p.m. Saturdays, or by mailing it.

Hyde said for right now, the goal is to form a Western New York National Cemetery Honor Guard in counties such as Genesee, Orleans, Livingston, Wyoming, Erie, Niagara, Monroe, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua. Those interested in volunteering should contact their county veterans service officer.

“Each county is going to try to recruit people for an honor guard for the National Cemetery so we can start trying to figure out how many people there are. Anyone from Genesee County that wants to join can call me or Bill Joyce,” he said. “I am the officer in charge of the Western New York National Cemetery Honor Guard for Genesee County.”

Of the JVHG, Hyde said, “A lot of the gentlemen are at an age where honor guard duties and details cannot be performed. We perform year-round, all weather. If there’s a veterans’ ceremony, if a veteran’s being buried, if we’re asked to be there, we’re there.”

Hyde said so far this year, the JVHG has removed five or six people from active duty, which leaves it with 15 or 20 people.

“At the rate of people leaving versus rate of people joining, the people leaving rate is a lot higher,” he said. “If we pick up one person a year or one person every other year, we’re doing good and that’s bad.”

“I’ve been there five or six years and I’ve seen a lot more people leave than have joined ... since I’ve been there.”

Hyde said currently, the JVHG can put together a responsible team to serve during a veteran’s burial ceremony when asked. He said the personnel required for a detail usually include seven riflemen, an officer-in-charge, a Color Guard and two volunteers guarding the flag.

“At best, you need 16 people. We can do it responsibly with less than 16, but then sometimes we have to take out a flag, sometimes have to take out a rifleman. We make an accommodation for the number of people we have.”

The JVHG has not had to turn down a request from a veteran’s family to participate in a ceremony due to lack of volunteers.

“We run very thin at times, but we get the job done properly,” he said.

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