Chuck Morris’ service didn’t end when he left the Army more than 50 years ago.
Now he serves by honoring those who joined the military before and since, in the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad.
VETS is the Piqua-based group that performs the final military salute for deceased veterans and their families. Morris and the other volunteer veterans fire the volley of three, blow taps and fold and present the flag at funerals in Miami County and nearby communities.
“There’s no better feeling than performing a military service for a deceased military veteran and their family,” said Morris, 81.
Morris had an uncle who was a prisoner of war in World War II. He came home, but when he later died there was no local group to provide him with a military funeral. Morris decided that he wanted to prevent that from happening to other military families.
Morris was on a VFW honor guard for several years, which was the precursor to the independent VETS group that he organizes today. Around 25 volunteers are now in the squad, with four or five attending each military funeral.
“When a funeral home calls and asks for a military service, I don’t have to think about it. Yes, we’ll be there,” the Piqua man said.
The squad averages between 90 and 100 funerals each year, he said. They also have marched in local parades and participated in other events, such as Veterans Day programs at schools.
“He’s dedicated to giving deceased veterans their due,” said Ralph Bolton, who has known Morris for about 40 years and nominated him as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.
The squad is called upon to perform military services with only a day or so of notice, he said. Morris takes pride in the squad’s efforts and goes where needed, even out of the county.
“It’s pretty important to him, and it’s very important to the community, too,” said Bolton, a Piqua resident who served in the Army from 1966 to 1968
Morris spent three years in the Army, where he received x-ray training. He spent a little over a year in Thailand in 1965 and 1966, serving as part of the medical support for an engineering battalion.
When he returned home, he took the national x-ray exam and became a technician. He later was the first registered ultrasound technician in Miami County and did some of the first MRIs and ultrasounds there, he said.
Morris, also a long-time American Legion member, points to that group’s efforts to remember the wars and those who fought in them. He considers his time on the squad as doing just that.
“It’s part of our obligation when we sign up for any type of military organization,” he said.
Morris worries what will happen to the squad in the future. While some of its members are in their late 40s or 50s, the average age is probably around 70, he said. More volunteers are needed.
“That’s the last thing we can do for our veterans,” Morris said.
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