Bradley County Honor Guard - Paying Tribute to the Lives of Military Veterans
This week's 'Pay it Forward' begins just up the road from Cleveland's American Legion Post 81.
That's where we meet Marion Stafford, the wife of a Bradley County Honor Guard member.
Marion is ready to recognize the group with a $500 cash gift surprise.
Marion tells me, "They are dedicated to honoring their departed brothers by performing military honors at the funerals and helping the family bring closure."
Over the years these veterans have stood graveside for hundreds of solemn ceremonies - final tributes to the brave men and women who so selflessly devoted themselves to our nation.
Marion says, "They fold the flags and present that to the families and then they fire a 21 gun salute and they play the 'Taps'. We have one person that is in charge of the whole group, 'Pinky' Blackburn. And, the funeral homes will call him and then he gets on the phone and calls all the members."
Marion tells me the group depends entirely on donations from gasoline to the vehicle that they drive.
"This is going to help them because they recently had to purchase a van, which the Shriners sold them one at a discounted price, but they still have a lot of expense."
As we count out our $500 Marion tells me the Honor Guard is gathered at the American Legion and getting ready to leave for a funeral in just minutes.
She says, "Today they will be driving to the Chattanooga National Cemetery to do their service there."
We hop in the car and quickly make our way through the Legion's lobby door. Marion asks 'Pinky' to come forward and says, "On behalf of the McMahan Law Firm and NewsChannel 9 we'd like to 'Pay it Forward' for your services, for all your devotion and service to your departed brothers."
Marion counts out the cash and thanks the retired U.S. Navy veteran for his service.
'Pinky' is speechless.
Roy Smith, also a retired U.S Navy veteran, says, "You've got World War II (vets) in here and Korea, Vietnam, these guys stand out in the rain, sun, whatever... You've got three (men) in here that's 85 and they're still serving our country. It's an honor to stand right with them."
When I ask the guard members why they devote so much of their time to the families of fallen service men and women there is no hesitation in their replies.
Retired U.S. Army Corporal Dale Norwood says "We owe it to those guys."
William Singleton, a retired U.S. Navy veteran smiles and says, "It's an honor. It's a priviledge and they're our brothers."
Friday, December 27 2013, 06:17 PM EST
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