The three rifle volleys, the playing of taps, and the folding of the American Flag--all time-honored traditions at the burials of past U.S. Service Members, and all are performed by VFW veterans when military honor guards can't make it to the funeral.
“They did their duty, defended our country, and it’s an honor for us to do it for them,” said Monica Sandridge, the commander of VFW Post 6060’s Honor Guard.
The VFW post out of Elizabeth City is one of the few veteran honor guards left within a five hundred mile radius, traveling all over Eastern North Carolina and even up to Hampton Roads to make sure every military family can lay their heroes to rest properly.
There is one big problem though--their ancient 1986 GMA Vandura, complete with shag carpet and padded ceilings, is on its last leg, ready to fall apart at any second.
“We never really know when we get in it if it’s going to be reliable enough to go where we want to go,” said Jim Driver, a member of the Honor Guard who drives their van on all their road trips.
The laundry list of problems is endless.
“It’s on its second rebuilt motor, no one has any idea how many miles it’s got on it,” said Greg Stafford, the commander of the post.
“Everything on it is iffy…you never know if you hit the button, whether the window is going to go down, or whether you close the door, if it will latch,” said Driver.
“We can't even lock the van anymore, because if you lock it, you won’t be able to open it,” said Sandridge.
“The main worry is if we get stranded, if it breaks down,” said Driver.
That's scary knowing how much their services are needed by the military families saying their final goodbyes.
“Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to make it. We don’t have a backup contingency, this is our only option, and that’s why we are trying so desperately to get another one,” said Driver.
Since December, the Post has reached across its membership to fundraise for a brand new 13-15 passenger van, big enough to hold all their members and their equipment.
That effort only got them a third of the way to their $30,000 goal...so now, they are asking the community for help.
“These guys are over there fighting for the freedoms they enjoy every day, some of them are dying for it,” said Driver.” Those are the ones we are trying to honor, and they need to help if they can.”
So NewsChannel 3 couldn't leave without taking action to help kick-start their public fundraising campaign. We gave them $1,000 to add to their "Van Fund," the good news bumping them up to 40% of their fundraising goal.
“Oh my God, that’s wonderful, so much more than I could have thought possible,” said Sandridge. “That’s great! Thanks NewsChannel 3, we are so happy!”
To donate, click on this link for the post's website.