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Marksmen guard will perform highest honor

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Military veterans can now have a flag and a 21-gun salute performed at their funerals.

Carson City’s American Legion High Desert Post 56 commander said Monday he has been eager to develop an honor guard since the post’s inception two years ago.

“When we lose a fellow veteran, the honor guard is the last honor presented to the fallen veteran,” he said. “There is no higher honor than this precisely for the family.”

Post 56 performed its first salute Monday at Lone Mountain Cemetery.

“When we formed the honor guard, we didn’t know we would be doing the (first service) for one of our own,” said Post 56 Commander Don Atkins.

Monday’s graveside service honored Carl Long, 78, who served in the U.S. Navy and died April 7. He had also been a member of the post.

“The only other all-veterans honor guard is Reno-based,” said Atkins. “They do a lot of military burials out in Fernley.”

Atkins began recruiting men to form the color guard several months ago. One delay was too few members in the post to volunteer.

“It was our intention from the beginning to put an honor guard together to do this for military veterans,” Atkins said.

The honor guard now has more than a dozen men volunteering services with several available to substitute.

“I was kind of talked into it by the commander,” said Jack Ralph, who joined Post 56 in September 2005 as a way of honoring his grandson who served in Iraq.

Membership in the American Legion allows entrance to anyone from any military branch, like Ralph, who was in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, as long as they served active duty.

“It makes me proud to be a member of the honor guard and pay respects to the veterans that have fallen,” Ralph said.

The men have practiced together several times over the past three months. Though they have their own uniforms and flags, they will borrow rifles for the 21-gun salute until their own M1 Girands arrive, anticipated in early June.

Another difficulty with forming a guard was that few Post 56 men had experience. Atkins, who was in a guard for three years in Grass Valley, Calif., trained them himself.

“You did good guys,” he told the honor guard afterward. “(The rifles) all fired off.”

Atkins said the Grass Valley honor guard performed about once a week.

“Being new in Carson City, I’m not sure if it will be more about once a month,” he said. “We just don’t know.”

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

Last honor

What: American Legion High Desert Post 56 honor guard will bring a color guard and perform a 21-gun salute for veterans; funerals

Call: Commander Don Atkins at 887-0708