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VETERAN’S DAY: VFW 8850 Honor Guard still performing its duty

They once served their country on battlefields and in far-flung places, on decks of ships and in foxholes.

These days they stand by a flag draped casket and fire a 21-gun salute or carry the U.S. flag in parades and on special occasions.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars 8850 Honor Guard still serves its country by serving its community. And they stay busy, too. Honor Guard member Earl Smith Sr., said the post conducts 150-200 military graveside rites each year.

“We’ve had as many as four funerals in one day,” Smith said. “If it’s a full military funeral we go and stand by the body and the next day we are the pallbearers.

“We go to the cemetery for the 21-gun salute and to present the flag. It’s not always a full military funeral. If not we just go to the cemetery.”

Smith, a World War II veteran, said he has been a member of the honor guard for 14 years. Why?

“It’s just something I think ought to be done to honor veterans,” he explained. “I take it seriously, myself, and the rest of the Honor Guard does too. This is something we think is important.”

His son, Earl Smith Jr., has followed in Dad’s footsteps. The younger Smith, a veteran of the Vietnam era, is also an Honor Guard member.

In addition to the funerals, there is also the pomp and circumstance, the days when solemnity gives way to cheering.

“We lead the Coal Grove Christmas parade each year,” Smith said. Post 8850 leads the annual Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade, too.