CALVERT CITY – The Women’s Auxiliary of William A. Doyle Post 236 has formed what state American Legion officials have confirmed as the first Auxiliary Honor Guard in Kentucky.
The guard’s purpose is to pay formal tribute to deceased members of the American Legion Auxiliary, which is made up of women who were formerly spouses of military members. At the request of the family, the unit will perform a ceremony, just as the Post 236 Honor Guard provides military rites for deceased veterans.
Members are Regina Adams, Linda Armiger, Marilyn Chandler, Robbie Edmonds, Evelyn Jones, Bettye Latham, Susie Vasseur and Nickie Vasseur Jones.
Provision for an honor guard and an outline of service protocol are part of the Auxiliary handbook, according to Linda Armiger, sergeant-at-arms of the Post 236 Auxiliary and commander of the newly formed honor guard.
However, there are no other such units that Armiger knows of.
“It’s near and dear to our hearts,” Armiger said. “It’s a much-needed thing. It’s part of our service and part of our duty.”
The unit made its debut at the district meeting of the American Legion Sept. 30 in Princeton, with members resplendent in dark blue military-style uniforms.
The unit was more than a year in forming, Armiger said. The death of a Post 236 member and his wife, an auxiliary member, in a traffic accident in Paducah provided the impetus to complete the process.
“Last year when we lost Frank and Mary Wallace,” she said, “we were upset that we didn’t have the honor guard formed.”
The post men’s service is based on active duty military rites, including a graveside formation, 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps,” folding and presentation of the flag and the ritual display of a rifle with bayonet stuck in the ground, helmet and dog tags atop the stock, symbolic of a soldier who has died in combat.
Just as the duties and responsibilities of servicemen and women are distinct from the roles played by their spouses, the auxiliary service is differentiated from the men’s honor guard ritual.
The principle service is provided at the funeral home, with the U.S. and American Legion flags placed at head and foot of the casket. Honor guard members file in to the music of “America the Beautiful” and the service proceeds with these words: “Death has entered our ranks.”
After the introduction, which explains the purpose of paying tribute to the deceased, a prayer is offered, followed by reading of Psalm 103 and then a poem, “Goodbye ‘Til Morning Come Again.”
Guard members place red flowers in the casket and file out to the accompaniment of “God Bless America.”
If there is no visitation, the service can be performed at graveside. The ceremony may also be performed at the funeral of a veteran, if the family requests it, Armiger said.
The unit has been invited to take part in a Veterans Day ceremony on Monday, Nov. 12, at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West in Hopkinsville and will also take part in events on Memorial Day and during the annual Wreaths Across America event in December.