Post 56 guard seeks to honor those who serve
Joe Hanus served as a supply sergeant in Korea with the U.S. Army in 1954-’55.
“That was just after the shooting had stopped. We were there to help organize the Korean Army,” Hanus said.
More than 55 years later, Hanus helps organize the American Legion High Desert Post 56 Honor Guard, who attends funerals and parades to bring honor to those who have served their country.
Most of the post’s guard are veterans in their 60s to mid-70s. Bugler Steven Hays is 87. Hanus is 80.
Together, they continue to practice the strict protocols and formations. The post is one of the few in the state of Nevada certified by the U.S. Department of Defense to perform the duties of an honor guard. Only 200 individuals in the state can wear the certification gold pin – triangular in the shape of a folded flag – with pride.
The color guard traditionally leads the Virginia City Memorial Day Parade, and its members are regularly called upon to lay their fellow soldiers to rest as an honor guard prepared to present a 21-gun salute. Sometimes they honor members of the post who have stood with them in formation.
Since they received certification in 2006, they have laid to rest founder Don Atkins, John York, Wayne “Lips” O’Malley, Gerald St. Leger-Barter.
For this group of veterans, Memorial Day is more than picnics and parades.
Below is Joe Hanus’ musings in prose and verse on what Memorial Day means.
A Day in May – Their Day
by Joe Hanus
We can’t see the “rockets red glare; the bombs bursting in air.” It’s there over the horizon. Our trained warriors, in bloody conflict; today, in harm’s way. A few will return in a flag-covered box. We will ceremoniously commit them to a fine military burial and life will go on – this is our life; a life free to move about; to speak out; and, best of all, to challenge authority.
How did this come about?
The answer is mostly below a trimmed lawn dotted with marble monuments and bronze plates. We will stand erect, point our rifles to the horizon. And at the moment of discharge, shock us into reality. “For whom do the volleys toll?” Yes, it’s us. It’s also a salute to the departed.
We are far enough along to sense we can be closer to that grass than the soles of our boots. But this day we are here to serve. And serve we do.
Our life, your life is wrapped in that flag:
The Star Spangled Banner
Let’s live to honor it!
by Joe Hanus
The Memorial Day sun is kind this day
at the Lone Mountain Cemetery
where the U.S. flag droops at half mast.
Timmy’s classmates scatter across
the green plain dotted with stone markers
where three generations of ashes
of loving family members lay beneath
a cool grass carpet deadly quiet
yet warmly remembered.
There they lie, old warriors
seeking somehow remembrance
reminding us never to forget their intent.
Yet their silence remains.
The small feet of children
tip-toe carefully along
the bleached markers which shielded
the sounds of old war stories of
side-by-side boxed ashes reminiscing
to each other of long forgotten glory
on distant battlefields.
His classmates set out to explore
this lost and nearly forgotten world of remains
now hidden by white marble tablets
which proclaimed name, rank, service and war
Timmy’s search for Grandpa is short.
He’d been there before just where his dad
He lay on the cool grass and places
a blank white paper over the raised letters
of Sgt. Paul Ames, U.S. Army WWII
as his pencil scans the marker
and reinforces the image in his heart.
Once again a connection is made.
And this remembrance of Grandpa’s service
for his country helps explain
the freedom he now enjoys