SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — At this time of year, people in East Tennessee and around the country take time to do the same on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, to honor those who served.

But with the pandemic Veterans Day this year will be different. There will be no parades, no large gatherings. However, here at WATE 6 On Your Side, we continue to pledge to help raise money for Honor Guard units in our communities.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare visited a unit in Sevierville as they paid tribute to an Army veteran.

The first thing honor guard unit members will tell you is that it is a privilege to show respect to the fallen. Outside American Legion Post 104, the unit honored one of its own — Robert Wells served in the Army in the mid-1970s through the 80s. Active in the community, his friends affectionately called him “Cowboy Wells.”

This unit participates in more than a hundred services a year.

“To me it’s an honor to participate in a military funeral. It is sad but still an honor to me that I’m still able to do that,” Paul Parrott, former Post 104 commander, said.

A service free to families, the American Legion and the honor guard provide full military honors to veterans.

“All of the folks who understand what that veteran went through and has provided to this country, this is our last opportunity to provide the respect and dignity that they deserve,” Tom Baxter, commander of American Legion Post 104, said.

The three-volley salute is a long-standing military tradition at funerals of those who served and the solitary sound of a bugle call the playing of taps is a fixture at military funerals as the music of mourning.

The final act of an honor guard unit is preparing the flag that will be given to a family member.

“Well this flag means a lot to us. We signed a piece of paper that said up to and including our lives for this country. And our flag is a symbol of that,” Baxter said.

For American Legion Post 104 — and to its honor guard unit  — the community thanks those willing to give to the honor guard so that they may provide the service.

“We were blessed beyond belief to find out about operation Honor Guard. We are absolutely thankful beyond belief to Operation Honor Guard and the help that they gave us last year and going forward. We really do appreciate it,” Baxter said.

American Legion Post 104 is just one of a handful of volunteer honor guard groups in East Tennessee. Post 104’s oldest member is 82 and their youngest is 48. And among their cadre are several women as well. As volunteers, they are unpaid.

Their transportation, uniforms, and upkeep of their equipment are all funded either out of their own pocket and by donations — let’s help them maintain their contributions to honor our veterans. Click here to donate.

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