There are few things sadder than having to say goodbye to a true hero — one who sacrificed in service to our country.
And yet, it is also an inspiring time, knowing the veteran has earned his greatest reward and any suffering has come to an end.
It is also a humbling and wonderful experience to watch as his fellow veterans remind us about the bond that is built through their military service and the years that follow.
Such were the services for Jefferson “Doc” Honefanger, who died last month. Among his many other associations, he was a member of the local Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 620, and the visitation included a special service by members of that organization.
Because “Doc” was a veteran of the United States Army and served in France with the 45th Infantry Division during World War II, he was entitled to be buried with full military honors during his funeral the next day.
Unfortunately, when his son, Jeff, arrived at Littleton and Rue Funeral Home, he was informed by Funeral Director Rob Kampman that the Army Honor Guard en route from Ft. Knox, Ky., had experienced a medical emergency that prevented their arrival here.
Despite calling every available resource, Kampman was unable to get a replacement Honor Guard. Jeff contacted Chapter 620 Commander Dave Bauer, who mentioned he could arrange for a local group of Marines to do the job. Although he knew his father wanted the Army to conduct the ceremony, Honefanger responded that if the men had an American flag on their uniform, that would be fine.
Marine Corps League 963 members Ron Coss, John Campbell, Richard Lira, George Lazaer, bugler Mike Hamilton and Keith Murgatroyd handled the ceremony, with help from Bauer and Jeff Leonard, who played the “Echo TAPS.”
There were a few other glitches along the way, but as Honefanger said later, “quite honestly, if you were not aware of what was going on behind the scenes, everything appeared to be happening as it should.”
He added, “My family owes a debt of thanks (to those men and) Funeral Director Robert Kampman.”
It should also be noted this isn’t an unusual circumstance. These men frequently perform services to honor and assist veterans in our community. But in this case, they answered a last-minute call to duty to honor a fellow veteran’s last request.
Bauer, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, handled the flag portions of the service.
He couldn’t resist pointing out, “the flag was folded and presented by the Army after all.”
And thank you to Army Vietnam veteran Randy Ark for his help with this column.
Contact this writer at Darryl.Bauer@cmgohio.com