The honor guard has done 97 funerals so far this year, and travels to wherever the veteran is going to be buried, including Rantoul and Covington. The members’ ages range from 60 to 89, and they perform the rites in all extremes of weather.
On the hottest day of the year, the veterans were standing in the sun for 40 minutes. They were given the option to move to the shade, Morse said, but none would move — that’s how serious they are about their duties.
The honor guard gets no funds. However, sometimes the family will give them $20 to $50, or the funeral home will add a small amount, designated for the guard, he said.
Donations are nice, he said, but the guard won’t decline its service if there are none.
Darby said he’s impressed with the veterans’ dedication. Some of the men have served in wars, but feel like their duty isn’t over yet.
“I think the families kind of take them for granted,” he said.
Operation Honor Guard will not only raise money, but Darby hopes it also draws attention to the men, adding, “I want the public to gain knowledge about what these guys do.”
During the fundraisers, Sunset staff and family will provide the “sweat equity,” he said. The money will go directly to the American Legions. Funds raised in Danville, for example, will go to Post 210. Funds raised in Covington will be divided among the Perrysville, Cayuga and Veedersburg posts.
Darby hopes this will be an annual campaign. The “boots on the ground” fundraising will end by Veterans Day (Nov. 11), but the website will remain open to take donations.
“This is a really important cause. We want it to grow,” Darby said. “I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised (by the donations).”
The Darby family will supplement the fund, as well, he said, adding, “We’re just giving back to the community.”
To help To make a donation, go to the website www.operationhonorguard.us. Make checks payable to your community's American Legion and write "Honor Guard" in the memo line. Addresses of the participating Legions are listed on the website. Volunteers will be collecting funds at different sites over the next several Fridays.