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 rites 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 rites 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 rites 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
They agreed to meet the third Saturday of each month to train and hold business meetings.
These veterans sold Desert Storm cards and held fundraisers to purchase weapons and uniforms. Their 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. They 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 they still use the garage today.
These Veterans visited all the funerals homes in Randolph County to let them know they were available to provide full military funeral rites; 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 veterans 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 their services were well received by the veteran's families, the requests increased. They also provided the color guard for the Veteran's Day Parade in Asheboro.
The requests grew over the next few years. In 1991, they performed services at 18 funerals, in 1992 they performed over 20 services. That same year, they 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 them seven M1 Garand rifles to replace the 03 Springfield rifles.
In 1993 they replaced the white helmet liner with the Army Officer's dress blue hat, and the white ascot with a gold ascot. They also adopted a long sleeve white shirt with an American flag over the left shirt pocket as a winter uniform. They 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 the 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, they performed funeral rite services for 48 veterans, and they were also able to begin buying and providing uniforms to their members. In 1995, they performed over 60 funeral rites. In 1996 they provided funeral rites to more than 90 veterans and they acquire a 1983 Lincoln Town Car 9-passenger limousine through Ridge Funeral Home to transport members to and from funerals. They 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 rites for veterans. In 2000 their membership increased to 35 members, and they were able to purchase an additional five M1 Garands Rifles to be used in services, bringing the total up to 13 rifles. That year they performed funeral rites 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, they lost their long-time Commander, James E. Allred, in August and performed 197 funeral rites. They 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. They also increased their 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 rites, and the funeral home in the area were given one number to call to reach the Honor Guard to request their services. This made coordinating the Guard much easier. They also purchased a ceremonial bugle to make the funeral services look better.
In 2007 the Honor Guard performed at 339 funerals, and made contact with the North Carolina Military Honors and began to work with it to help provide funeral honors. The NC Honors would fold the flag, present the flag, and play taps when requested. The Honor Guard purchased an additional three M1 Garand rifles, bringing their total to 17.
Word was getting out, and the demand grew higher. By 2008, the Honor Guard performed 377 funeral rites, and purchased a GPS navigation system to help them find the funeral sites for services. In 2009, they performed 414 funeral rites. They also provided each member with $50 to purchase smooth toe military style shoes. WGHP Channel 2 Fox News interviewed he Honor Guard Commander, and he made a pitch for new members because the demand for services was exceeding the current Guard's ability to handle. That interview led to an additional 35 members for the Guard. Many of the new members had never heard of the 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 rites due to health reasons. This veteran had provided outstanding service not only for the Honor Guard but for all veterans requesting services of the Guard.
The demand has grown so high that they are at times requested for three funerals or more funerals in the same day, all in different parts of the area they cover. For this reason, a third ceremonial bugle was donated by C. Ross Berry VFW Post in Climax N.C. The Year 2010 saw the Guard perform 486 funeral rites for veterans. They purchased a seven passenger mini-van, and a fourth 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, they moved to their own quarters in Sophia, sharing space with the Sophia Suport Club. They performed funeral rites at 534 funerals for veterans. They 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, they received 15 M1 Garand rifles on loan from the federal government, giving them a total of 32. They also purchased a gun safe and placed it in the garage at George Brothers Funeral Home in Greensboro, along with 15 weapons and one of the ceremonial bugles.
Today, the Honor Guard performs funeral rites at veterans' funerals all over the N.C. Piedmont area. These veteran volunteers saw a need in our community, and jumped to fill it. They are an amazing group of men and women and I commend them on their continued service to their country and their fellow man. Please take the time to thank them for their service the next time you see them performing funeral rites at a veterans service.