The American Legion Honor Guard, composed of service men and women, executes ceremonies throughout the community and county, to maintain the traditions of U.S. military, to educate citizens and to uphold the dignity and honor of fallen comrades.
The Oelwein Ross Reid Post 9 Honor Guard is composed of veterans from all branches of the service, spanning from World War II to the Gulf War. It has been an active presence at events for many decades.
Sgt. At Arms Buzzy Bush commands the local Legion Honor Guard, a company of more than a dozen legionnaires, all ready to give their representation at a variety of events. The Oelwein Legion Honor Guard can be seen at home sporting events, presenting the Colors and raising the American flag at Husky Stadium and Veterans Memorial Sports Complex. Flag raisings are also held for opening day of school each August, Memorial Day, Flag Day, for Oelwein Celebration at City Park, at Veterans Park for the Pearl Harbor Remembrance and on Veterans Day. Each Veterans Day, programs on honoring and respecting the American flag are given at local schools with the Honor Guard performing the traditional flag folding ceremony, while another member explains the meaning of each fold.
Members of the Honor Guard also lead community parades for Oelwein Celebration, Homecoming, Olde Tyme Christmas, and as requested in surrounding communities. The only basic requirement to serve on the Honor Guard is being a veteran and legion member, and having the desire to fulfill Honor Guard duties.
Dressed in a full dark blue uniform, the Honor Guardsman’s jacket features his nametag over the right breast pocket and awards above the left breast pocket. The gold cord over the left shoulder indicates the Honor Guard status, while the color of the cord over the right shoulder indicates the branch of the service, i.e., blue – infantry, green – military police, white – navy, purple – medical and veterinary. Members of the Oelwein Legion Honor Guard wear their American Legion hats with their uniforms.
The presence of the American Legion Honor Guard is never more poignant than when honoring a fellow service man or woman who has passed away. It’s the final farewell with the three volleys and Taps that reminds us all of the respect for the veteran’s service.
Most of the burial detail rituals that the Honor Guard performs are steeped in historic traditions that date back several centuries. When the flag is draped, the blue field of the flag is placed at the head of the casket, over the left shoulder of the deceased. This custom began in the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the flag was used to cover the fallen as they were taken from the battlefield on a caisson.
The three-volley gun salute came from the Civil War, when both sides would on occasion call a “time out” so that each army could go onto the battlefield to collect their dead and wounded. When that had been accomplished, the sides would fire three gun volleys indicating they were ready to commence fighting again.
And then there is the distinctive bugle melody now known as “Taps.” According to history, U.S. General Daniel Butterfield reworked an existing bugle call during the Civil War in 1862. Butterfield thought the bugle call to indicate to troops it was time to go to sleep should have a more melodious sound. The popularity of the new tune quickly spread to buglers in other units, even through the Confederate Army.
The 24-note tune was officially known as “Extinguish Lights” in American military manuals until 1891. Since then, “Taps” has been a formally recognized part of U.S. military funerals.
The Oelwein Legion Honor Guard has not had an official bugler in its ranks since the late retired Brigadier General Walt Saur served in that capacity. High school band students are used when they are available, and the Honor Guard has an electronic bugle that is also used.
Oelwein Legion’s Honor Guard also has a eulogist in Jake Blitsch, who has honored deceased veterans with personal, unique eulogies for the past 13 years. Since starting this practice, Blitsch has given approximately 120 eulogies at veteran funerals.
Today’s Oelwein American Legion Honor Guard includes Sgt. At Arms Buzzy Bush, Jake Blitsch, Royce King, Duane Larson, Dale Lowe, Ron Luckeroth, John McBride, Bill Mundt, Jason Rubin, chaplain, Paul Ryan, Larry Werner and Richard Witt. Member Brad Boleyn has since moved away. Honorary member Dale Gowey also is a flagbearer with the Honor Guard as a member of the Sons of the American Legion.