Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad invites volunteers to be part of burials

The Dayton National Cemetery is the burial site for about 1,200 former armed services personnel each year. The volunteer Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad is there for every final farewell.

Bundled up against the rain or bitter cold, standing tall even in the heat, the honor squad offers the traditional three-volley rifle salute and works with the veteran’s branch of service — Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard—to ensure a U.S. flag is folded and presented to the veteran’s family members. An honor squad bugler or trumpeter plays taps.

Now you can join them. The volunteer team is looking for a few good men. Or women. Veteran or civilian.

“You don’t have to be a veteran,” said Megan Brackney, honor squad recruiter. “You just need to be patriotic.”

Brackney of Yellow Springs said she comes from a long line of service members, though not a service member herself. She’s been part of the squad for five years. Currently she is part of the Tuesday team, which serves at Tuesday funerals.

That’s how the squad operates. There is a team for each day of the week, Monday through Friday. The team serves the entire day, up to five funerals a day. Each team consists of three to seven shooters, a bugler/trumpeter, a squad leader and a daily commander. Team members serve on the day(s) that best fits their availability.

Squad members are provided with most items they’ll need, including free uniform shirts, hats, gloves and belt, says Brackney. Volunteers must provide their own transportation to the cemetery, but once there, the squad moves around cemetery grounds in a shuttle bus. Volunteers also get $9 lunch passes for the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital cafeteria nearby. The squad serves the Dayton National Cemetery exclusively.

Currently volunteers come from across the region, says Brackney, including Greenville, Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Tipp City and Lebanon, to name a few. Several members come from London, Ohio.

“We’re a bunch of retired folks looking to honor veterans,” said Honor Squad Commander Thomas Jones of his 46-member squad. He is also part of the Tuesday and Wednesday teams. The average age of volunteers hovers around 70, though some charter members of the squad, which began in 2015, are still volunteering well into their 80s.

“Come and observe,” Jones said, inviting potential volunteers to services to see if they are comfortable with the physical aspects.

That includes including standing for long stretches and handling the World War II rifles used in the tributes. Each weighs almost 10 pounds.

“You’re holding a piece of history,” Brackney adds. No shooting experience is necessary. Squad members train new volunteers on the rifles, which shoot blanks.

Jones, a Navy veteran who comes from Clayton to volunteer, says he’d like to have at least 60 squad members, enough to cover when members have other engagements, vacations or leave temporarily to winter south. “We would love to have you.”

Both Jones and Brackney note the squad gives them much more than they put into it.

“It’s the feeling that you get from doing it,” said Jones. “It’s when you see the pride in the faces of the (veterans’) loved ones.”

“I’m glad to do it,” said Brackney. “Besides my children, I get more joy from this than anything else I’ve ever done.”

More details


Contact information is also on the site. Contact Jones and arrange to observe the squad serving at a funeral, or contact Brackney directly at 937-532-3972.

The cemetery is a VA property, and potential volunteers will be asked to fill out an application and several other forms. You must pass a federal background check as well. Once cleared, you receive an ID badge for cemetery grounds. And you begin training!

Every year you will be required to get a flu vaccine and a TB test, which can be provided without charge at the VA Medical Center.

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