COMMUNITY GEMS: Honor Squad volunteers give full military funeral honors to vets

Jim Todd, a volunteer with the Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad

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Jim Todd, a volunteer with the Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad

Kettering man is longtime volunteer, role model to others

Veterans served our country. Now Jim Todd and other volunteers with the Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad serve those who have died, ensuring that they receive the full military funeral honors that they deserve.

“It’s just like I’m doing a patriotic duty,” said Todd, 82, of Kettering.

Todd is one of the oldest active members of the Honor Squad and a role model for others on the team, said Greg Hoertt, a fellow volunteer who nominated Todd as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.

“I think it comes from his heart. It’s something he does that brings purpose and meaning,” Hoertt said.

Todd takes his role very seriously, making sure that each veteran is provided with a dignified service, Hoertt said. Each one is well-rehearsed and polished.

The Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad began on Memorial Day 2015, and Todd was among its first volunteers. Before the squad was formed, about 10 percent of veterans interred at the cemetery received military honors that included a rifle salute. Now they all do.

About 50 volunteers make up the squad, with several attending each service to provide the rifle salute. Todd is the commander of the Monday team, attending between three and eight funerals each week. He has volunteered at hundreds since he started seven years ago.

“Most of the people do it from a feeling that this is something that needs to be done,” said Todd, a Dayton native and ROTC graduate from Ohio University who was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army and served in a missile battery in Germany for two years in the 1960s.

A military funeral is free for all veterans with an honorable discharge, he said. Spouses who haven’t served also can be interred there, but military funeral honors are reserved only for veterans.

“It gives you a good feeling,” Todd said. “You see the families appreciate it, and it makes them feel highly of their veteran getting interred.”

Hoertt said serving on the Monday team marks a good start to the week, putting things in perspective. When the duties are done for the day, he feels a sense of satisfaction in the difference the team has made.

The Honor Squad is comprised of veterans from all military branches, and civilians also are welcome to volunteer, said Hoertt, an Army veteran from Xenia Township. Each year they volunteer at around 1,200 services at the cemetery, at 4400 W. Third St.

In addition to firing the three-round rifle volley, the Honor Squad presents three shells from the volley to the family as a memento, Hoertt said. A team from the Department of Defense usually plays taps, folds the flag and presents it to the next of kin, but at times the Honor Squad does that, too.

Todd also will address the family and friends of the veteran, explaining the military honors and providing comfort, Hoertt said.

“I think it’s not necessarily what he says, but how he says it,” he said.

Even after volunteering at hundreds of services, the squad’s duties never feel routine, Hoertt said. He thinks the families sense that.

“We share their grief,” Hoertt said.

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