Honor guards on duty at WNY National Cemetery

VIRGINIA KROPF / CONTRIBUTORMembers of the honor guard from Orleans County VFW and American Legion posts fire a 21-gun salute at a Batavia veteran’s funeral on Jan. 5 at the Western New York National Cemetery in Pembroke. The cemetery is hoping an honor guard from Niagara County will step up to participate in funerals one day a week. 

PEMBROKE — The Western New York National Cemetery began accepting interments of veterans on Dec. 18, and since that time, 37 veterans have been buried there.

Each burial takes place in a special enclosed committal pavilion, with a ceremonial flag presentation by two active members from the military branch in which the deceased served, and a 21-gun salute with playing of Taps.

The honor guards who provide the 21-gun salute are volunteers from Orleans, Genesee, Erie and Wyoming counties, which each are responsible for one day a week. Only Niagara County has not stepped up with volunteers to create an honor guard, which is needed for Friday interments, according to Jim Freas of Medina.

Veterans in Niagara County who could volunteer several hours a week should contact their local Veterans’ Service Agency, Freas said.

Freas has organized the honor guard from Orleans County, tapping veterans from VFW and American Legion posts in Medina, Lyndonville, Albion and Holley. Orleans County veterans are responsible for interments on Tuesdays.

Those who participated in a Batavia veteran’s Jan. 5 funeral were Freas, Glenn Whitmore of Gasport, Dave Kusmierczak of Medina, Steve Johnson of Lyndonville, John Follman of Lyndonville, Greg Stanton of Medina, Tony Vicnair of Lyndonville, Orville Prutin of Albion, Ron Aryault of Holley, Al Pulcino of Holley and Larry Szatkowski of Medina.

Any veteran and his or her spouse is eligible to be interred in the National Cemetery, said Brooke Tinaglia, management analyst for the cemetery. The cemetery accepts coffins or cremation remains.

“It’s an honor to be here and give fallen veterans a last military honor,” said Specialist Cameron Sackett from the Masten Street Armory in Buffalo, who with Sgt. Austin Dycha of Buffalo has participated in four veterans’ funerals.

For the time being, honor guards must wear black trousers, a black jacket, white shirt, and black shoes and cap. Freas said that by January 2023, honor guards from each county will be required to have a standard uniform.

Funerals are scheduled at 10 and 11 a.m., noon, and 1 and 2 p.m. each day, Monday through Friday. Interment for any eligible veteran can be arranged through their funeral home at the time of need, by presenting their discharge papers, Tinaglia said.

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