Sequatchie Valley Veterans Honor Guard — Veterans honoring veterans
As Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative closes out the year honoring our “ Hometown Military Heroes,” we focus not on honoring a single person but, instead, have chosen to honor a group of veterans who volunteer their time to honor other veterans.
Several individual members of the Sequatchie Valley Veterans Honor Guard were nominated as Hometown Military Heroes, but when approached with the idea of honoring the whole group, the members agreed that would be best. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the whole group,” stated Jack Summers, an Army veteran who served from 1963 to 1967 in Korea and who has been an active member of the National Guard since 2012.
The Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard was founded by Vietnam-era Marine Corps veterans Chris Reyes and Stan Brown in 2010 to honor the service of veterans and their families in Marion, Sequatchie and parts of Grundy counties in Tennessee as well as those in Dade County, Georgia, and Jackson County, Alabama.
“We went to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars meetings and recruited anyone who was interested,” said co-founder Reyes. “We have members from all five branches of the military. Most of us are Vietnam-era vets in our 60s and 70s and came from the Chattanooga Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203. But we do have a few younger Desert Storm veterans as well.
“We founded the Honor Guard because we believe every American military veteran deserves full military honors upon burial, regardless of rank. Our primary goal is to provide full military honors for the burial service of any area veteran. That consists of a 21-gun salute, a flag-folding ceremony, presentation of the flag to the family and the playing of taps. The family is also presented with a set of three highly polished rifle shells with the veteran’s name, date of birth, branch of the military, dates of military service and date of death. These three shells representing God, country and service are tucked into the folded flag presented to the family.
“Since the founding of the guard in 2010, we have conducted nearly 650 military burials. We also do programs for schools and ceremonies for Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day and participate in numerous parades throughout the area. Right now, we have about 40 members on the roster, but there are about 28 of us who actually do the burial services. We hope we can add some more younger veterans to our group.”
Currently, it’s one of the largest honor guards in existence. Though the majority of the members are from Marion County where it was formed, there are members from all five counties served.
“You just don’t see a lot of these groups around,” said Reyes. “We don’t cover Bledsoe County because their VFW group provides the service for that area, but we cover the rest of the Sequatchie Valley. We have a couple of ministers in our group, and when needed, one of them conducts the funerals as well.We sometimes serve as pallbearers or stand watch over the casket — whatever the family needs us to do. We just want to make sure that every veteran receives the honor he or she deserves — whether the rank was private or general, whether rich or poor. They served our country, and they should be honored and remembered.”
Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative is proud to honor the men and women of the Sequatchie Valley Veterans Honor Guard — true Hometown Military Heroes.