RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — In one week, families across the country will come together and remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
They will be remembered on Memorial Day. But every day of the year, a group in the Triad remembers veterans by giving them one final honor.
The Randolph County Honor Guard has volunteers that come from various counties, and they travel to funerals in both Randolph and Guilford counties.
Up until recently, they had a fifty-mile travel radius from Asheboro.
But now they’re cutting back on how far they travel, and they’re worried they might have to cut back even more if they can’t get more recruits.
With two vans, five rifles, a bugler and an American flag, a group of nine retired veterans lined up in Guilford County on Monday. They came from all over.
“I’m [from] Davidson County,” said Randolph County Honor Guard Vice Commander Don Bryant.
To the sound of “taps,” the group gave a veteran, who they didn’t know, a military memorial service.
“If the military doesn’t do it, the family doesn’t get the honors their loved ones deserve,” explained Bryant. “It’s up to a group of volunteers to pick up the mantle and do the honors.”
The Randolph County Honor Guard is overwhelmed and are struggling to keep up with the number of funerals they’re asked to do.
“We can’t keep burning people out,” Commander Wendy Hagerty said.
“Today we have three missions…that takes a total of 27 personnel to put that on,” Bryant said.
But the group only has about 30 people able to do these missions. They’re having to double up on duty. They’re desperate for more recruits, especially from Guilford County.
“There are 28,000 veterans in this county alone. 70% of our missions are taking place here,” Bryant said. “We’re having to travel from surrounding counties to give residents of this county honors. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
The commanders are worried about their aging volunteer corps.
“Our average age is somewhere approximately in the mid-70s…and we’re not getting any younger,” Hagerty said.
Now, the focus has shifted to what might happen if the group doesn’t get the help they need.
“If things don’t change, in five years in this area, there probably won’t be anyone to offer military honors for our fallen vets,” Bryant said. “I served honorably. I would like to think when my final day comes, that there would be somebody to present that flag to my family.”
The Randolph County Honor Guard is a non-profit organization, and they operate solely on donations to make sure there’s no cost to the grieving families.
They’re hoping to get at least 30 more volunteers soon.