The group is looking for honor guard volunteers to help with veterans’ funerals
By Susan Hilland
Cindy MacDonald is one of the newest honor guards in the Northern California Veterans Volunteer Honor Guard.
She didn’t even consider joining until a chance encounter on Veterans Day during the parade, one of the uniformed guards presented her with a challenge coin.
“Well, you can’t turn away from that,” MacDonald said.
She did some research and phoned to offer to volunteer for a spot on the team.
“I actually had a great time between services,” she said.
MacDonald admits the taps always catch him a bit – and maybe a tear or two could escape.
Since joining a few months ago, she has been busy with various services for interred military veterans.
“I didn’t know you didn’t have to be a veteran to be an honor guard,” she said. “I happen to be a veteran, but I don’t need to be to join.”
Members of the honor guard render the final honors of veterans. Sometimes that means performing multiple services in one day anywhere in California.
Founded in 2008 as a nonprofit, self-funded charitable organization, the Northern California Veterans Service Volunteer Honor Guard is a California 501(C)(3) registered nonprofit charitable corporation. ) comprised of military and non-military volunteers primarily serving the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery and surrounding cemeteries.
The primary duty of the local honor guard is to support the respective branches of military service and provide a three-gun volley salute.
Automatic federal budget cuts limit the availability of active duty military honor guards to render final honors at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery on Midway Road near Dixon.
“Usually you do a flag, bugle and rifle dispatch,” said Cmdr. said Steve Mercer. “With cutbacks in the military, they don’t do the rifle part.”
“My goal is to have at least two teams available to serve,” he said.
This is so that the current individual team does not have to be at the graveyard almost every day.
The Honor Guard is looking for volunteers who have a flexible schedule. They don’t have to be a veteran and there are no age or gender limits for volunteering. The commitment is two days per month.
“We welcome everyone. We’re going to teach you how to do the rifle salute,” Mercer said.
He has noticed that many of his regular volunteers have stepped back due to COVID and have not returned.
They did the honor guard three days a week, but because people left, they cut that time down to just two days. It is difficult to cover the funeral with only 22 members.
“Ideally, I’d like to have eight more people,” Mercer said.
Members of the Honor Guard are trained and qualified to perform the duties of flag folding and presenting, tap dancing, and firing rifle volleys as required. The carabinieri team is available on Monday and Friday by appointment.
These services are free for the military family.
The only things volunteers need to provide for themselves are boots and transportation; otherwise, uniforms and training are covered.
“It’s a great opportunity for high school students to get credit for community service,” Mercer said. “It’s also good for those who are retired.”
To volunteer or get more information, go online at www.svncvhg.org or call 415-619-9554.