The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 Honor Guard recently held a military honor ritual for Augustus Wodtke, of the US Army Cavalry, who was a Teddy Roosevelt Rough Rider during the Spanish American War.
Mike Miski is The Point Team’s Honor Guard Commander.
âHer granddaughter called me to ask the family to have military honors for her grandfather. I said no problem, and she said you have to understand that he died in 1939, âMiski said. âAugustus had never had military honors and at the request of his granddaughter and family we went to Mount Elliot Cemetery in Detroit and presented him with full military honors. It was our honor to do it for the family. Who cares when he’s dead, he should have the honors.
“She said Augustus was from a poor family in Hamtramck who didn’t have money for a gravestone, so the family got together and bought her the gravestone, but the granddaughter said that he had never had a military funeral.
âIt was a beautiful sunny day and there were family members from out of state, like 20 of them. There was a relative there and he was married to a Native American woman. While we were there, a giant falcon flew over and landed in a tree near us. She said it was a sign that the spirit of man was here with us, âMiski said.
Vietnamese veterans are always honored to attend the funerals of mountain families.
The Montagnards are indigenous peoples of the highlands of central Vietnam. Many were Christians and now live in the United States.
âWe love the Montagnards. They fought hard for us and a ton of them came here after Saigon fell, âMiski said. âYou can’t ask for better people.
âI talk to a lot of widows, especially now during COVID,â Miski said. âThey may have been married to their husbands for 70 years and they want to talk about it. Part of it bites me pretty hard – I have to shed a tear for them – but I think it’s part of my job as the Commander of the Honor Guard.
“A man called me to tell me exactly what he wanted for his funeral and he sounded great on the phone, but his daughter just called me to tell me he died on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. he declared.
âWe have asked veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to join our honor guard and they will not do so yet. We also do their funerals – a ton of them. They are 30, 40, 26, 28 – a bunch of young people. They OD, they die by suicide. Many of them are active soldiers, maybe 21 a day, âhe said.
The team recently paid tribute to one of its own members at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.
âAnyone who is a Vietnam Veteran or – who is an associate member of Vietnam Veterans of America – can be on our honor guard. The ones we have are really engaged. I post the funeral info and it just shows up, up to 4pm sometimes. We need to have at least three to shoot the volley and two to fold a flag and blow the taps, âsaid Miski.
The protocol for a veteran’s funeral is for the funeral home to contact military facilities to arrange for two uniformed servicemen to attend the funeral to perform a flag-folding ceremony and then present that American flag to the next of kin. A volunteer Veterans Honor Guard can perform the Three-Barrel Rifle Volley Salute, Divine Blessing, Hits, Volley Case Presentation, Final Salute, Blessing, and more.
Advanced team member Ron Mexicott performs the Eight Bells Ceremony at the funeral of selected U.S. Navy veterans.
âFor those of us who have served on ships, bells have a variety of uses, including signaling, time, and sounding alarms,â Mexicott said. âThe maximum number of bells that can be rung in a four-hour shift is eight, culminating with the sound of eight bells and the signalâ eight bells and all is well âat the end of the watch. Ultimately, the passage of a sailor is marked by the ringing of eight bells.
To inquire about becoming a member of the scoring team, call 586-776-9810.
The Great Lakes National Cemetery Advisory Council is calling for more honor guards and rifle teams. Many families of deceased veterans are disappointed at their funerals because a rifle team is not available. The cemetery has 22 volunteer honor guards from veteran service organizations, or VSOs, but that’s only enough to cover a dozen funerals, while there are about 32 funerals at the cemetery per day.
âThis is a nationwide problem,â said Rich Yandora, Sterling Heights advisory board member.
Honor guards participate in additional details beyond funeral services. The âBurial Service of Unaccompanied Veteransâ is an annual requirement of the National Cemetery Administration. The Daughters of the American Revolution – who pose as the mothers of those buried with no other family present – co-hosted the event in September, and the advisory board allocated $ 500 to purchase wreaths. On September 11, a remembrance ceremony honored those who lost their lives on September 11; and a national ceremony for the recognition of missing servicemen was also held.
The Macomb County Ritual Team is a Veterans Funeral Honor Guard made up of volunteers from different VSOs.
Membership comes from: American Legion Post 4 (Mount Clemens) and one Utica American Legion post; Marine Corps League Detachment 154 Macomb County; AMVETS 93 post (Armada); Veterans of Foreign Wars Ext. 6691 (Fraser), Ext. 2052 (Romeo) and Ext. 4659 (Shelby); Disabled American Veterans Post 19; Catholic Veterans and Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 1818.
âThey are thrilled to be able to represent a different VSO,â said Ritual Team Commander Scott Metcalf. âAlthough it is diverse, what we are trying to show is not diversity but unity – many veterans and many VSOs united in one goal, to ensure that every veteran, regardless of their branch of service, active, reserve or guard will receive their honors, which they have earned, by wearing a United States uniform.
Metcalf said he paid military honors to a man who was buried in an Oakland County cemetery. Because the funeral home did not have military discharge papers, it did not ask US Marine Corps officials to fold the flag.
But the man was a Marine, well known to former Marine Metcalf for receiving the Navy Cross Medal for extraordinary heroism.
âThe Navy Cross is the second highest honor after the Medal of Honor and there were records on this man. I called Selfridge myself and the Marines showed up and were happy to be there, âsaid Metcalf.
“If you would believe in such things – you’d call a God Wink – once we were in a church waiting to give final honors to a US Navy when an eagle, the main symbol of the USMC emblem , the eagle-globe-anchor, flew over and landed at the top of the cross, âhe said.
Metcalf can be reached at 313-418-7609.
Stanley Gadowski is the Ritual Team Honor Guard Commander at VFW 7573 in New Baltimore.
âWe’ve been with the team for 40 years or more and now all of our guys are over 70,â he said. “We’ve probably had 30 or 40 funerals this year.”
Other details the New Baltimore VFW team made included wreaths across America, US Sea Cadet duties, flag dedications, flags on Memorial Day graves, important birthdays veterans and the new Michigan Veterans Home in Chesterfield.
âWe don’t ask for donations, but if we get any, we use them for clothes and gasoline,â Gadowski said. Contact him at 586-854-1289.
AMVETS Post 52 in New Baltimore also has an honor guard, as does AMVETS Post 29 in Mount Clemens.
Mike “Sarge” Parr commands the Honor Guard for the American Legion Post 4 Patriot team based in Mount Clemens. He said local honor guards are in contact and assisting each other with requests for details, but also for equipment and supplies.
âWe do the memory reading and leave that for the family in a folder and give them a challenge room. We put the brass casings of the three cartridges that we shoot into a velvet jewelry bag with the American Legion Post 4 on it. We are there to support the military. When the family sees them folding this flag of duty and honor in their Class A uniforms, there is no such thing, âParr said.
He explained that the Patriot team works with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in honoring Revolutionary War veterans and historical societies on Civil War honors. They participate in Wreaths Across America and other community events.
Parr can be reached at 586-612-9780.
Send news about service clubs and veterans organizations to Linda May at [email protected] or call landline 586-791-8116.