Because of that, those in the guard are constantly recruiting, trying to find veterans who can volunteer alongside them
Mike Inman is looking for a few good men and a few good women. He’s hoping to convince more veterans to join the Volunteer State Veterans Honor Guard and help him and his unit.
“It’s one of the most honorable things that a man can do,” Inman said.
The Army veteran would know. He and Air Force veteran Dave Caldwell have been with the Honor Guard for more than a decade.
Caldwell said “When I came on, in 04 we were doing a lot of World War Two vets. We’re getting a lot of Vietnam and starting to get some Deseret Storm.”
These veterans say that over time the numbers of volunteers in their honor guard unit have, sadly, decreased.
“We’re down to 12-13 active members,” Caldwell said.
At a recent funeral in the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Governor John Sevier Highway, the Volunteer State Veterans Honor Guard had just seven members there. However, Caldwell says they really want a full contingent.
“A full military honor funeral requires ten people. Seven on the line, an NCOIC, chaplain and a bugle.” Caldwell explained
Inman says veterans need to know that they’re truly needed. And they need to know the difference that being in the honor guard can make when families say their final goodbyes.
“When you have a loved one come up – a wife, a son, a daughter – with tears in your eyes and shaking your hand and thanking you profusely for honoring their loved one – that is the greatest feeling you can have – knowing that you brought comfort and closure to this man, woman or child.”
Recruiting, for the most part, is word of mouth. In fact, that’s how Bill Clark, who served in the Air Force in the ’50s, learned the honor guard needed volunteers.
“I assumed it was regular military that did this. I didn’t know it was volunteers. I heard from a guy who talked about it, and I thought hey – that might be interesting.” Clark said.
The 90-year-old says he’s ordered a uniform and will soon be part of the Volunteer State Veterans Honor Guard, helping cover the funerals for his fellow servicemen and women.
“It just seemed natural. It was unplanned. It’s an opportunity. And my bucket list is getting smaller, so I thought I’d give it a shot.” Clark continued.