There is one aspect of the American Legion and VFW honor guards I have not written about: The current sacrifice of the members.

I am truly amazed at all they sacrificed while they were in the service. Some lost hearing, others were wounded ... some multiple times. No wonder journalists like Ernie Pyle wanted to write about them while they were on the field of battle, even though many writers, like Ernie Pyle, died telling the soldiers' stories.

But the people in the honor guards came home.

Many never told their families what they went through on the field of battle. Some, in the Vietnam era, could not handle the rejection they received after they came home and so they turned to booze and drugs to cope.

Many find solace and understanding in the American Legion and VFW posts, with their friends who were in the service.

Then, a relatively few of them, are willing to honor those who did not make it home by serving in military honor guards.

I first got an up close view of their service in 1975 at the Alamo cemetery.

I was to speak at the Alamo church that Sunday morning. Before services, I was told the church would have Sunday School as usual and then we would begin the worship service. After communion we would dismiss to the cemetery for the Memorial Day observance.

Nearly 40 years later I remember that silent walk from the church, through the village, to the cemetery.

The honor guard was already in position. I read a patriotic passage from the Old Testament and then took a step back to signify I was through.

The honor guard moved into position and fired three shots before the bugler played the mournful wail of "Taps."

How those shots echoed over the fields! How that bugle tore at one's soul.

So, these brave people not only put their lives on the line while in battle, but they sacrifice their time today by serving in the guard to help the rest of us remember the sacrifices other have made so we can go to the '500' and go on picnics and spend time with our families on Memorial Day.

But not just one day a year, they serve the families and friends of their military brethren by honoring those who served and have passed away whenever called upon to do so.

When I interviewed members of the American Legion Honor Guard last week, I mentioned that my draft number was too high and I was never called to serve.

"It's a responsibility to serve," one of the men responded.


I hope you took time to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day. I sure did.

Frank Phillips has been watching and learning from Central Indiana for 19 years as a journalist. He can be contacted at