My View of the Honor Guard and Why I Am Proud to be a Part of It
by Jim Houck, Jr.
I am a member of the Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7 Thurmont, and I really enjoy the welcoming feeling the people at the post have conveyed to me since I joined. I consider myself a part of the family of Veterans, Auxiliary, and Sons, who work together to make our post one of the best in America.
The different factions and functions of our family make whatever we choose to venture into almost always a success. I say almost because we are not perfect; but, we are working on it. The officers of the post are always thinking about ways to improve our post and you can see the improvements with each visit.
We strive to help our Veterans and our community every day. AMVETS Post 7 has an award-winning Honor Guard, led by Ed McKinnon, who are invited to post colors at many events and to participate in several parades. The members stand guard at Veteran’s funerals and do graveside services, such as the folding and presentation of the flag to the next of kin and a rifle volley with the playing of taps at the end of the firing. I was asked to join the Honor Guard and, at first, I thought they were joking, because I was sixty-six years old and I thought they would not want an old overweight codger like me on an award-winning team. Boy, was I wrong, as they already had men older than I am on their team. So, I said yes and attended my first meeting with them, not knowing what to expect. I have to say, I was hooked after that meeting and never again thought about not joining.
Ed McKinnon was, and is, a very patient man, who will teach, with the help of all the other great guys on the team, everything you need to know. He doesn’t expect you to learn everything all at once, which is why he holds practice each month or as often as needed. I know without practice that I would get rusty and forget things when I needed them, and I want to do the best job possible. I remember when Ed told me to go get fitted for a uniform. I went to the tailor shop to get fitted; it really didn’t take as long as I thought it would. They told me the uniform would be ready in about two weeks and they would call me. I called Ed, explaining what they had said. He said he would call them and tell them to call him first, so he could take them the things they needed to sew on the uniform that they would not have.
I waited and I waited. It was three weeks and I had heard nothing from them. I called Ed and he said he would give them a call, which he did. They told him the uniform got lost in shipping. I had never heard of such a thing, but the only thing I could do was wait. I was told by Billy—one of the team—that Omar the Tent Maker was on strike, and they couldn’t make my uniform until he returned. I mumbled under my breath a few syllables and went merrily on my way. I had to go for another fitting, and they stated they would call me when it was in so they could make adjustments. They didn’t give me a time frame this time, so I waited and finally got the call. I went immediately down there, and I walked out with my uniform in hand. I think Ed probably had a little talk with them when he took the patches and things down to them. I think he probably threatened to take his brother Donnie down for a visit if they didn’t have the uniform soon.
When I got home, I tried it on and had a picture taken—I was so proud. I was so proud, not of the way I looked in it, but the way I felt in it.
Then came my first parade to march in and, boy, was I ready for it—all 5 feet 8 inches, 270 pounds of me. I was carrying a rifle on the left side of our Flag. I was marching and stepping right along for about four blocks, and then it happened: I could feel my pants starting to fall. I tried hearing marching orders, while handling my rifle with one hand and pulling up my pants with the other, but it got too frustrating and I had to drop out. I was humiliated and upset at myself for having no butt or hips to hold up my belt and pants. I was offered a chair and some water from a kind lady watching the parade, who told me she knew as red as I was, the heat was just too much for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her my pants were falling down, and that was the reason I was so red.
The next parade, the same thing happened, and, again, a lady offered me a seat and water and made the same remark to which I again offered no explanation and just said, “Thank you.”
Ed came looking for me after the parade each time and walked me back to meet the rest of the team. He is a thoughtful and caring person who watches everything and who will not put his men in jeopardy.
I feel the Honor Guard Team has accepted me for who I am, and I certainly have accepted them. I truly believe the Honor Guard of Post 7 to be a vital part of the AMVETS organization. By the way, Billy had his pants fall down in one of the biggest parades of the year, falling all the way down to his ankles. Omar the Tent Maker, indeed!
I am seventy-five years old now and still a member, and still as proud of my teammates as I was the very first day I joined. We are also the Honor Guard for the Department of Maryland, and we are really proud of that as well. Ed McKinnon is still our captain, and as far as I’m concerned, the best Honor Guard leader in our AMVETS Organization!
God Bless the United States of America, God Bless the American Veteran, and God Bless You.