Veteran Families Appreciate the Volunteer Service of Marion Honor Guard
BUSHNELL – Tim Hollamby – the only person at his father’s funeral – has a lasting memory and a sense of pride in his late father’s service in the American army through a military honors funeral service by the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard.
Fred C. Hollamby, 86, of Haines City, Fla., Who served from 1958 to 1964 with 18 months in Korea, was buried Dec. 17 in the Florida National Cemetery with full military honors from the Guard of Honor from Marion County.
The service was the first of two that day at the National Cemetery for the Ocala group.
Hollamby, 60, said he was filled with pride and moved by the ceremony for his father, who served in the Army infantry and had artillery assignments.
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âI swelled with pride when I saw all of the honor guard in their service uniforms. The chaplain was great and the honor guard who presented me with the flag was in. the army, the same as my father, âHollamby said.
Hollamby said he “absolutely respects” the volunteer service of members of the Ocala-based Honor Guard.
“I shook hands with every member of the honor guard. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I am very happy with the ceremony and I appreciate it,” said Hollamby.
The guard of honor is a completely voluntary organization
The service for Fred Hollamby was one of more than 200 services that the team of unpaid volunteers rendered this year at the request of families, primarily through funeral homes.
The website of the Department of Veterans Affairs, cem.va.gov, states, â(At) the family’s request, Public Law 106-65 requires that each eligible veteran receive a military funeral honor ceremony.
The website says the ceremony is to “include the folding and presentation of the United States funeral flag and the playing of tap dancing.”
“The law defines a detail of military funeral honors as consisting of two or more military personnel in uniform, at least one of whom is a member of the armed forces veteran’s parent service,” according to the website.
The VA requirements also require the presentation of a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
VA.gov states, â(V) eterans, military personnel and certain family members may be eligible for interment in a VA national cemetery. Details are available on the website.
The Marion County Memorial Honor Guard provides personalized service, which includes VA requirements as well as a chaplain program with 23rd Psalm reading, prayer, final hand salute, poem reading ” A Warrior’s Farewell “by former honor guard member Robert Joseph, rifle volley, Certificate of Remembrance and bagpipe music by John Earl.
Veteran families are grateful to have honor guard services
Steve Tweedle, general manager of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Home, said the funeral home has used the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard since the guard was founded by the late Art Nave following the 9/11 attacks.
âThe ceremony they are having is very meaningful and brings comfort to the family. In many cases, the family may not be fully aware of the veteran’s military service, and the ceremony honors that service,â he said.
Just hours after Fred Hollamby’s service, the dozen or so members of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard teamed up with two active-duty Marines – Gunnery Sgt. Travis Bailey, 37, and Master Sgt. Eric Bracnheau – to perform a ceremony for U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jeffrey Kochen of Ocala.
Kochen, hailed as a “Marine’s Marine” with 24 years of service, died earlier this month at the age of 66 of complications from the delta variant of COVID-19. He was a father and comrade who served his country, community and fellow veterans as a volunteer at the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park.
The two active-duty Marines based in Tampa – veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – performed a ceremonial folding of the American flag and presented it to Jeffrey Kochen’s son, Kristopher, 36, himself a Marine for 11 year.
Air Force veteran and co-captain Sharon Cooley served as the honor guard chaplain for the ceremony.
âMy father would have been honored to have both units lead the ceremony. He would have loved it, âKochen said.
Kochen, currently a Master Sgt at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, represents the fourth generation of Marines in the family.
Bagpiper John Earl, who volunteered for a number of ceremonies individually at Florida National Cemetery and with the Marion County Honor Guard for approximately 14 months, played the Marine Corps anthem at the opening of the ceremony and “Amazing Grace” after the greeting of each member to the lost comrade.
CW4 Chief Warrant Officer Brett Womble, 48, a Purple Heart recipient for improvised explosive device (IED) injuries in Iraq in 2004, served with Jeffrey Kochen in the 6th Motor Transport Unit in Orlando.
Jeffrey Kochen was a reservist in central Florida, his son said.
Womble, during the ceremony, called Jeffrey Kochen a “Marine’s Marine”.
Kristopher Kochen said his father, a native of Long Island, New York, joined the Marine Corps in 1973 during the Vietnam War and served in Germany, Japan and Iraq during the war, among others.
Jeffrey Kochen’s military job was in maritime aviation, and he worked as a support technician, parachute loader, and aircraft captain who supervised aircraft take-offs and landings.
Jeffrey Kochen has received decorations including the Navy Achievement Medal.
Jeffrey Kochen moved to Ocala in 1980 and served as an officer with the Florida Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice and worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Kristopher Kochen explained in an email.
Members of the honor guard draw on their own military experience
Members of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard bring their own veteran experience and desire to honor veteran service at ceremonies.
Lewis Alston, 70, is a Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran and recipient of Purple Heart for shrapnel received in combat. He said the 400 ceremonies he has attended to date are his way of “giving back” to fellow veterans.
Alston said a member of the honor guard meets, when possible, with a family member to get personal insight, as a nickname for the deceased veteran.
One of the co-captains of the Marion County Honor Guard, Naval Chief Don Kennedy, 68, a (first) Gulf War veteran, has participated in programs honoring veterans of the New Jersey and participated in about 200 ceremonies with the Ocala- based group.
âYou have to adapt and be flexible,â Kennedy said of providing tailored services to each Veteran and their family with limited time and having the occasional ceremony involving other staff.
Bruce Hutchunson, a member of the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard, served in the Army in the Cold War 1961-67 and Army Veteran Tom Carter, recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge, served during the Vietnam War.
Navy and Coast Guard veteran Bill Dorsey, 78, flew three missions during the Vietnam War.
He joined the Honor Guard in 2007 and has served in approximately 3,000 departments as chaplain or other roles.
“I like to think that the most important thing that I bring to the custody is the closure for the families for whom we perform the service and a lasting memory of their loved ones,” he said in a text.
Dorsey said the 2011 van used by the Marion County Memorial Honor Guard needs to be updated. Many people say thank you for your service to veterans. “Why not give us a hand with donations to buy a new van?” ” He asked.
The group is also looking for volunteers.
Lew Wolfe, 78, a Marine Corps veteran, may be the longest serving member of the honor guard. Air Force veteran Pete Foster, 82, performed at least 2,000 ceremonies with the group.
Larry Barnes, a Marine Corps veteran, is one of the newest members of the group.
Member of the Air Force Honor Guard Master Sgt. James Lynch, 88, was stationed at the North Pole for part of his military service. The soldiers were in tents and there were fears of a Russian invasion. He was also part of President John F. Kennedy’s guard of honor in November 1963.
Earl, the bagpiper, said he had performed individually on a number of services and had been in the honor guard for about 14 months and had attended around 200 guard ceremonies County of Marion Memorial Honor.
Army veteran and guard Joe Dewey, a Vietnam War veteran who drove tankers and ammunition trucks, called his comrades a “rare breed.”
Cooley, one of the co-captains, said that in addition to honoring veterans and helping grieving loved ones, members of the honor guard also share a bond.
âWe have a lot of camaraderie,â she said.