American Legion Post 241 in Sneads has been in existence for decades. The building sits on Legion Road, the Post’s heart is in the members, living and deceased, who have served as the patriotic conscience of East Jackson County.
On national holidays American flags are placed along Highway90, usually by former commander Dillon Kilpatrick, who transports them in his restored World War II Jeep.
Flag ceremonies for special days are led by the present commander Gene Lanier. Wreaths are laid at monuments and markers.
But of all services rendered by Post 241, the best known is the Honor Guard, a final service rendered to deceased veterans of the area. It may be a memorial, or it may be performed at the actual burial.
The graveside ceremony is simple.
After the priest or pastor has committed the remains to the earth, he nods to the uniformed American Legion leader, who steps forward, cautions that that there will be the sound of gunfire as part of the ceremony, and then begins:
“Another patriot has been called to that high command. He has been called to report to the commander of us all. This moment is sacred with the presence of the one who has gone before. We come to honor this veteran who offered his life in the service of his country. Proudly we remember his service in time of war.
Because of him our nation is free. Because of him our world is blessed.
We know that these mere words can offer little comfort in this time of sorrow, but we sincerely hope that you can find ease in knowing that he is at rest and in eternal peace.”
A prayer is offered, and then the leader, with the assistance of another Legionnaire, carefully folds the American flag that has been draped upon the coffin. The leader, kneeling before the next-of-kin, presents it, saying, “This Flag is presented to you by a grateful nation.” He salutes, and reminds all that God, with infinite wisdom and mercy, will say one day, “well done, good and faithful servant”.
Then the bugler gives orders to the riflemen to present arms, then port arms, and finally, calls them into firing order. Three volleys are fired, one after the other, then the rifles are returned to present arms and the bugler sounds Taps.
The service is over.
It is done without recompense; it is done because a veteran of the Armed Services deserves no less and the American Legion Post 241 of Sneads, years ago, saw a need and has filled it, time after time, for decades.
Here are the men who serve on this Honor Guard:
Jerry Alexander, United States Air Force,1958-1961; served during the Vietnam War.
Harold Beauchamp, United States Air Force, 1964-1968; served during the Vietnam War.
Bobby Edwards, United States Army, 1960-1968; served during the Vietnam War.
Guy Edwards, United States Air Force, 1957-1995; served during the Persian Gulf War.
Homer Hirt, United States Navy, 1951-1973; served during the Korean War.
Dillon Kilpatrick, United States Army, 1950-1952; served during the Korean War.
Gene Lanier, United States Air Force, 1964-1968; served during the Vietnam War.
David Pippin, United States Air Force, 1958-1962; served during the Korean War.
Clark Riddle, United States Air Force, 1962-1966; served during the Vietnam War.
Milton Schouest, United States Air Force, 1966-1970; served during the Vietnam War.
Glen Edwards, United States Army, 1952-1954; served during the Korean War.
Lowell Centers, United States Army (Airborne), 1951-1953; served during the Korean War.
They are getting old, and the strength that once served them in their youth is ebbing. The Garand rifle, which weighs nine pounds, often seems like twice that. The hour, and often two hours, when they assemble at the cemetery awaiting the church service, seems to last and last.
But the Legionnaires of American Legion Post 241 give this final honor to their comrades, an honor that is repeated fifty to sixty times a year, in fair weather and foul, whenever called.
It is their duty.