Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 5, 2002

Legion color guard members motivated by respect for fellow veterans

By Julie Yurek

Hot, humid weather won't deter the Winsted American Legion Post 407 color guard from marching at the Winsted Summer Festival this Sunday.

The color guard is composed of a core group of men who faithfully carry the United States and American Legion flags during events, year after year.

The color guard members wear navy blue pants, crisp white shirts, and white helmets and gloves for their uniforms.

They march for Memorial Day and in the summer festival parade each year.

But perhaps the most honorable time the color guard serves is at another veteran's wake and funeral.

"I do it out of respect for my fellow veteran. It's an honor to serve at their funeral," said Legion Commander Jeff Sterner.

"We honor our departed comrade," said Dick Genty, a Legion member.

"There really isn't a 'color guard' per se," Sterner said. "It's all volunteer," ­ whichever members are able to participate on a given day.

Any Legion member may carry the colors, Genty said.

Genty has consistently carried colors since he retired about nine years ago.

The family of a veteran has to request a military funeral. Once the Legion is notified about a wake and funeral, calls are made to see who can attend, Sterner said.

For the wake, the colors are not usually brought, but members attend, Sterner said.

"We usually wear Legion caps and shirts," Jerry Thiemann said.

Thiemann has been a member of the Legion for years. He's a veteran of the Korean War.

At wakes, Legion members say some remarks about the deceased and how he or she served the country, Genty said.

"We put a poppy in the coffin and salute," he said.

Also, the auxiliary ladies put on a wake luncheon at the Legion for anyone who travels from out of town, Genty said.

The colors, rifles, and flag are brought to the funeral, Sterner said.

Members of the color guard also fold the American flag that is presented to the deceased spouse or children, Genty said.

The number of color guards depend on the event and time of day. It can vary for funerals, depending on who's available, Genty said.

Usually members aim to have 14 people present. It takes two to carry colors, two for non-firing rifles, four for rifles, and the rest to accompany, Genty said.

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