Saratoga’s Honor Guard steeped in service

Each flag is folded 12 times, each fold a tribute.

Each flag is folded 12 times, each fold a tribute.

— “It gives the families a sense of closure,” he said.

Volin added that the organization does flag raisings at area schools and parades and participates in Flag Day and Memorial Day activities as requested by schools or other organizations in the community. He said the association is known by all veteran’s associations, but maybe not as well known among the public.

The Honor Guard Association consists of six squads of 12-18volunteers each. Their principal duty is to ensure that every veteran receives a proper military burial service. It’s available at no charge to all eligible veterans, and funeral homes from all over the region coordinate with the cemetery and the association for services. Honor guards also serve in the civilian world for fallen police officers and other civil servants.

Marshall Wagner, with Rockefeller Funeral Home in East Greenbush, for example, said that they have approximately 40 funerals each year at the Saratoga National Cemetery.

President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2002 that renamed Saratoga National Cemetery to the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery. Congressman Solomon was known as the champion of veteran causes and headed the effort to create a cabinet-level Department of Veterans Affairs. He was also instrumental in helping to establish the national cemetery in which he is now buried.

More than 1.4 million veterans live in New York and more than 225,000 reside in the Albany and Saratoga areas. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery is New York State’s sixth national veteran’s cemetery and the 116th in the National Cemetery Administration. The cemetery can provide burial space for175,500 veterans and eligible dependents.

While it is difficult for families, at the time of services to express thanks to the association, Dratt reflected about a service where one act was monumental. “At one time a young boy came up to us after a service andgave us a small flag. That was a pretty neat moment… We also give out three empty shell casings to the family. The casings represent duty, honor and courage for a fallen comrade,” he said.

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