Day of Giving set for Oct. 11 to support Honor Guards

Jeanette Brickner/TimesNewspapers
Volunteers take collections at the Day of Giving event in November of 2015 at WCIA News Station in Champaign.

WASHINGTON — On a hot summer day in 2013, Rich Darby was feeling sorry for himself.

As a funeral director, he had no choice but to be out in the heat. Then, Darby saw something that gave him a new perspective.

“As I was working as a funeral director on a hot summer’s day, I stood sweating profusely.  I was feeling sorry for myself and was wanting to get back in the air conditioning,” Darby, of Danville, said. “I looked to my left and there proudly stood the honor guard at the gravesite of a fallen veteran.  They were not feeling sorry for themselves.  It was at that moment that I knew it was time to honor them by starting this cause.”

The cause Darby referred to is Operation Honor Guard, which he started. The program’s goal is to fund raise to “outfit every Honor Guard in the United States.”

Locally, Deiters Funeral Home & Crematory in Washington is getting involved.

Stephanie Deiters, funeral director and co-owner, said this is the first year the program has gone statewide.

“He has partners throughout the state that are participating. Our partner is WMBD,” Deiters said.

Local media provides the publicity and funeral homes work with the Honor Guards who volunteer their time during the fundraiser. 

The local fundraiser is from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 11. There are four donation sites: Washington, Pekin, Peoria and Bloomington. 

Throughout the day at WMBD-TV, there will be live broadcasts with veterans, Honor Guard participants and families who have benefited from the Honor Guard.

“At the conclusion of the event, the proceeds are divided amongst the groups that work. ... They will be able to use it for uniforms, transportation, flags, ammunition, whatever they need to purchase for their use so they can continue to honor our veterans,” Deiters said.

Deiters said she knows firsthand about the struggles of local veterans groups. 

“I think it’s a really neat event because those guys really struggle, number one, in numbers. We don’t have, in this particular area, a lot of our individual legions and VFWs, they don’t even provide their own individual Honor Guards because they don’t have the manpower to do it, let alone the financing,” Deiters said.

It is also a challenge for local funeral homes to secure an Honor Guard. Deiters said they get a request for one every month.

“In our area we have considerably less numbers in choosing to get these guys, and to be honest there’s a lot of times where we call out for an honor guard and we can’t get one because they are already reserved for another funeral,” she said.

According to HonorGuard.com, “The rendering of Military Funeral Honors for an eligible veteran, free of charge, is mandated by law. An honor guard detail for the burial of an eligible veteran shall consist of not less than two members of the Armed Forces. One member of the detail shall be a representative of the parent Service of the deceased veteran. The honor detail will, at a minimum, perform a ceremony that includes the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin and the playing of Taps. When available Taps will be played by a bugler, however there are so few buglers available that the military services may choose to provide an electronic recording of taps. The veteran’s parent Service representative will present the flag.”

Deiters said only those who have served for at least 20 years or who have retired from the military receive a full Honor Guard at their funeral.

“There are some areas in the state where every local American Legion has an active Honor Guard, but we don’t have that here. There are times where we want to have a full Honor Guard for a veteran who has maybe served three years ... in World War II, and we can’t get them either because of resources or because we don’t have enough groups, we can’t get that honor for that family, which is kind of disappointing,” Deiters said, adding they are currently serving a lot of those who were in the Korean War.

Deiters said funeral homes were approached statewide to participate in the Oct. 11 fundraiser.

Although there is no dollar amount goal, Deiters said she would love to see $5,000 raised. 

Those who cannot make it to the donation sites Oct. 11 may also donate online at operationhonorguard.us by clicking on the Peoria/Bloomington link. On Friday, the total amount raised to date was $201.