William Robert Hill of the Southway Post 144 Honor Guard at Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery.


Reflections of an Honor Guardsman at a winter funeral

Columbus, OH

On a cold Monday morning in January, I took part in another military funeral with my American Legion post Honor Guard, Southway Post 144 in Columbus, Ohio. It was certainly a winter's day with several inches of snow and about 15 degrees with a mild wind blowing.
We were giving honor to a World War II veteran, PFC Carl Yenichek, who served in Europe as an artilleryman in the U.S. Army. Carl was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, and died Jan. 11 at 93.
When the hearse pulled up and was carried into place, we went from Parade Rest to Attention, Present Arms, then to Order Arms and Parade Rest again as the service began. Standing in the snow and facing into the wind, my fingertips and toes began to freeze, and I tried hard not to shiver as the cold, wet snowflakes tickled my cheeks and nose.
Trying not to think of my discomfort, the snow reminded me of our young troops freezing this very moment in isolated mountain outposts in Afghanistan. And I began to think of winter battlefields past. I remembered the veterans of Korea at the "Frozen Chosin" and how they fought in sub-zero temperatures and pitch-black darkness with entrenching tools, bayonets, pistols and grenades against waves of Chinese troops overrunning their positions.
I thought of this veteran, Carl, and my dad, at the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge in that freezing winter of 1944 as German tanks and infantry overran their foxholes.
And my mind took me even further back to those hopeless winters at Valley Forge and Foxy Hollow, when the Continental Army hung on by its fingernails in winter agony with nothing more than empty stomachs and courage. Yet America prevailed. Because of its veterans, America prevailed.
Our flags snapped in the cold breeze when I heard the commands: "Honor Guard, Attention! Port Arms! Right Half Turn, Huh! Ready. Aim. Fire!" Three volleys and Taps. Our final respect for this veteran's service. Final honor. I could see the family appreciated us being there. As we marched away in single file I wanted to tell them it was no trouble at all. It was our duty. It was our honor.

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