Vets from Orleans volunteer for Honor Guard at new national cemetery in Pembroke
PEMBROKE – When the Western New York National Veterans’ Cemetery opened for interments on Dec. 18, Orleans County veterans were among the first to volunteer to provide honor guards for every veteran whose burial takes place there.
Honor guards who offered to provide their services, in addition to Orleans County, are Genesee, Erie and Wyoming counties. Each county is assigned a day, with Orleans County responsible for Tuesday burials.
Jim Freas from Medina has been in charge of organizing the honor guard, which includes veterans from VFW and American Legion posts in Medina, Lyndonville, Albion and Holley.
On Tuesday, those who participated in a Batavia veteran’s funeral were Freas, Glenn Whitmore of Gasport, Dave Kusmierczak of Medina, Steve Johnson from Lyndonville, John Follman of Lyndonville, Greg Stanton of Medina, Tony Vicknair of Lyndonville, Orville Prutin of Albion, Ron Ayrault of Holley, Al Pulcino of Holley and Larry Szatkowski of Medina.
Any veteran and his or her spouse is eligible to be interred in the National Cemetery, said Brooke Tinaglia, management analyst for the cemetery. The cemetery accepts coffins or cremations.
Each interment will have two members of the active military, representing the branch in which the deceased veteran served. These two military members will unfold and ceremoniously refold an American flag and present it to the family. This is followed by a 21-gun salute by the honor guard and playing of Taps.
“It’s an honor to be here and give fallen veterans a last military honor,” said Specialist Cameron Sackett from the Masten Street Armory in Buffalo, who with Sgt. Austin Dycha of Buffalo has participated in four veterans’ funerals.
Freas said more volunteers are needed to participate in the honor guard. For the time being, honor guards must wear black trousers, a black jacket, white shirt, and black shoes and cap. Freas said by January 2023, honor guards from each county will be required to have a standard uniform.
Freas also said so far no veterans from Niagara County have stepped up to fill one day and anyone interested can volunteer by contacting their veterans organization.
Funerals are scheduled at 10 and 11 a.m., noon, and 1 and 2 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday. Interment for any eligible veteran can be arranged through their funeral home at the time of need, by presenting their discharge papers, Tinaglia said.
Since the cemetery opened, there have 37 interments, most of whom are from Western New York or have roots in the area, Tinaglia said.