Our members are Honorably Discharged Veterans from all branches of our Military Services who gave of themselves in the service of their country as all Veterans have. We are now giving to our community and to those Veterans who pass before us. We encourage other Honorably Discharged Veterans to join us in the wonderful and satisfying Mission as a tribute to our fallen Comrades who have served our Nation so greatly.
When the US Military reduced its forces in 1989/1990, they declared they would no longer provide military funerals honors for deceased veterans. A group of veteran volunteers in Randolph County formed the Randolph County Veterans Council. The objective of the council was to organize a Veterans Day Parade, establish a veteran's memorial monument, and form an honor guard to provide military honors for veterans when requested by the veteran's family.
In March 1990, the Randolph County Honor Guard was formed with the mission to provide military funeral honors to all veterans, without regard to branch of service or membership in any veteran service organization, and at no charge to the families. There were 19 original members of the Honor Guard:
MOST HONORABLE MEN WHO FORMED OUR GUARD
Arthur Coble Carl Odham Frank Davis Jesse Hulin
Odell Hayes Tom Moore Terry Stutts
Doug White William Grant L.R. Auman
Martin Shaw Charles Morton Gary Edwards
Leroy Diggs Waylon Ingold Robert Cheatham
Herman Bolton George E. Brown Frank Rose
We agreed to meet the third Saturday of each month to train and hold business meetings.
We sold Desert Storm cards and held fundraisers to purchase weapons and uniforms. Our first uniform consisted of blue overalls with a white web belt, a helmet liner pointed white, white gloves and black shoes, and each member paid for their own uniform. We acquired seven 03 Springfield rifles as saluting weapons, and the American Legion, Dixon 45 provided a weapons safe to store them in Ridge Funeral Home agreed to store the safe in its garage. The garage became a place where the Honor Guard gathered to go on military funeral services, and we still use the garage today.
We visited all the funerals homes in Randolph County to let them know we were available to provide full military funeral honors; a three-volley rifle salute, Taps, folding of the flag and presentation of the flag to next of kin for deceased veterans when requested by the veteran's family.
The first ceremony performed by the Randolph County Honor Guard in May 1990 was not a funeral but a Memorial Day service at the Blue Star Memorial Marker on Dixie Drive in Asheboro. Gradually, funeral homes began to ask the Honor Guard to perform services and the first year they provided services for 10 veterans. As the Honor Guard became better known, and our services were well received by the veterans' families, the requests increased. We also provide the color guard for the Veteran's Day Parade in Asheboro.
The requests grew over the next few years. In 1991, we performed services at 18 funerals, in 1992, we performed over 20 services. That same year, we adopted a summer uniform of Army Officer's dress blue trousers, a white short-sleeved shirt with an American Flag over the left shirt pocket, white ascot, white web belt, shirt gloves and the white helmet liner. Through the efforts of members of the Honor Guard, the various veterans' service organizations in Randolph County loaned us seven M1 Garand rifles to replace the 03 Springfield rifles.
In 1993, we replaced the white helmet liner with the Army Officer's dress blue hat, and the white ascot with a gold ascot. We also adopted a long sleeve white shirt with an American flag over the left shirt pocket as a winter uniform. We provided 36 funeral rite services that year in Randolph County, and also traveled to Davidson County for the first time for a service. The Honor Guard agreed to limit their area to a 50-mile radius around Asheboro. By that time, the Honor Guard membership had increased to 25 members. Another M1 Garand rifle was donated, making a total of eight rifles for services.
In 1994, we performed funeral honor services for 48 veterans, and we were also able to begin buying and providing uniforms to our members. In 1995, we performed over 60 funeral honors. In 1996, we provided funeral honors to more than 90 veterans and we acquired a 1983 Lincoln Town Car 9-passenger limousine through Ridge Funeral Home to transport members to and from funerals. We were also able to provide each member with the Army black all-weather coat to be used in foul weather and to be worn as an overcoat when the weather was cold.
For the first time in its seven-year history, the Honor Guard exceeded 100 funerals in a year in 1997. The number dipped slightly in 1998 to 97 funerals but rose in 1999 to 112 funeral honors for veterans. In 2000, our membership increased to 35 members, and we were able to purchase an additional five M1 Garands Rifles to be used in services, bringing the total up to 13 rifles. That year we performed funeral honors at 146 funerals. In 2002, the Honor Guard exceeded 200 funerals in a year, performing at 215 funerals for deserving veterans around the Piedmont.
In 2003, we lost our long-time Commander, James E. Allred, in August. The Vice Commander, Hal Winslow, assumed the reins and we performed 197 funeral honors. We added a gold shoulder cord to the uniform to be worn on the left shoulder. The Commander's widow donated another M1 Garand rifle that had been owned by James. In 2004, the Sophia Support Club put on a fundraiser for the Honor Guard to purchase a 9-passenger van. The Honor Guard gathered items to be auctioned off, and it raised enough money to buy a 2003 Chevy Van. We also increased our membership to 50 active veterans.
In 2005, the Honor Guard incorporated as a 501(3) nonprofit, purchased two cell phones that were used by members of the Honor Guard to gather the teams for funeral honors, and the funeral homes in the area were given one number to call to reach the Honor Guard to request our services. This made coordinating the Honor Guard much easier. We also purchased a ceremonial bugle.
In 2007, the Honor Guard performed at 339 funerals. We also made contact with the North Carolina National Guard Military Honors organization and began to work with them to help provide funeral honors. The NC National Guard Military Honors members would fold and present the flag and play taps when requested. The Honor Guard also purchased an additional three M1 Garand rifles, bringing our total to 17.
Word was getting out, and the demand grew higher. By 2008, the Honor Guard performed 377 funeral honors and purchased a GPS navigation system to help them find the funeral sites for services. In 2009, we performed 414 funeral honors. We also provided each member with $50 to purchase smooth-toe military style shoes. WGHP Channel 8 Fox News interviewed the Honor Guard Commander and he made a pitch for new members because the demand for services was exceeding the current Honor Guard's ability to handle. That interview led to an additional 35 members for the Honor Guard. Many of the new members had never heard of the Randolph County Honor Guard until they saw the story on the news.
One volunteer asked if he could make all the phone calls required to provide the funeral services, as he was not physically able to participate in the funeral honors due to health reasons. This veteran has provided outstanding service not only for the Honor Guard but for all veterans requesting services of the Honor Guard.
The demand had grown so high that they were, at times, requested for three or more funerals in the same day, all in different parts of the area they covered. For this reason, an additional ceremonial bugle was donated by C. Ross Berry VFW Post in Climax N.C. 2010 saw the Honor Guard perform 486 funeral honors for veterans. They purchased a seven passenger mini-van, and another ceremonial bugle was purchased.
The Randolph Country Honor Guard was recognized by the General Assembly of North Carolina in Resolution 2010-7 House Joint Resolution 1869 in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 10, 2010.
In 2011, we moved to our own quarters in Sophia, sharing space with the Sophia Support Club. We performed funeral honors at 534 funerals for veterans. We were approved by the Army Ceremonial Rifle Program as an authorized Veterans Service Organization and became eligible for weapons support. As a result of this recognition, we received 15 M1 Garand rifles on loan from the federal government, giving them a total of 32. We also purchased a gun safe and placed it in the garage at George Brothers Funeral Home in Greensboro, along with 10 weapons and one of the ceremonial bugles.
We moved once again to meet at the Midway Wesleyan Church fellowship hall in Randleman. We have also established at third staging and storage area at Cumby Funeral Home in Archdale. We performed upward of 700 funerals a year.
Then we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic. We suspended operations for three months as we struggled to find a way to continue our mission. We finally established safety protocols that would protect our members as well as the families we were serving. As a result, our membership sharply dropped, as there were some that were unable to wear a mask or felt uncomfortable in risking the chance of exposure to the virus. Because of the decline in active members, we were forced to limit our area of operation to Randolph and Guilford Counties only.
Today, the Honor Guard performs funeral honors at veterans' funerals within their current limitations. Our median age is in the mid-70s. There is still a need in our community for veteran volunteers to assist us.