by Lisa Tome
In 1975, Ken McCoy put a silver bracelet on his arm.
Since that time, he has only removed it if medically required.
McCoy is honoring the memory of Staff Sgt. Charles King, a prisoner of war who has been missing since Christmas Day 1968. McCoy doesn't know King, but he feels connected.
McCoy, 69, of Elkton, served two tours of duty in Vietnam. "I signed up to go into the Navy when I was in high school. I volunteered," said McCoy. "My grandfather was in World War I. My dad was in World War II. My uncle was in Korea. I was in Vietnam." He was a gunner's mate in the military, spending his time in the service working on ammunition ships. He maintained the weapons on those ships.
"I'm proud to be a veteran. Veteran's Day allows me to give back to others what was given to me. Veteran's Day is everyday for me," he said.
McCoy and others are part of the Mason Dixon American Legion Post 194 Honor Guard. The group provides rifles and flags at the services for deceased veterans. The honor guard members are busy, serving at veteran funerals every few days, all year round.
McCoy joined the honor guard 18 months ago. "I'm glad they accepted me into the honor guard. We may disappear. I go once or twice a week to a cemetery," he said.
"In Vietnam, we didn't make policy, we enforced it. Everyone who didn't serve didn't appreciate the commitment we made to serve the country," he said.
Russell Gulick, 71, of Rising Sun, has been in the honor guard for a dozen years. He served in the Navy for 1964- 1968. "I was in high school. I signed up in high school. I did two tours in Vietnam on an aircraft carrier," said Gulick.
It was in his blood. "My father was in World War II and Korea. It was a natural progression," said Gulick who went on to work for DuPont for 34 years after the military. "I am a proud veteran. On Veteran's Day and when we're doing the honor guard, that's a time for us to remember our service member and help the family members," he said.
He attends two to three funerals each week. "The honor guard honors those who passed before us and those who served. It's a good feeling to do that. The World War II vets are fading away now. The last few we buried are my age," said Gulick.
Robbie Wilson, 74, of New London, Pa., has served in the Rising Sun honor guard for about eight years. He also served in the Navy from 1961- 1965. "I enlisted at 17. I went in my junior year. I went in to stay out of trouble. I was a machinist's mate. The service made a man out of you, made you so you could take care of yourself and be more independent," said Wilson.
He served on a destroyer ship. "I saw a lot of the world. Without the Navy, I wouldn't have seen it," said Wilson.
And now he's seeing the area one cemetery at a time with the honor guard.
"On Veteran's Day more people should honor veterans. Somebody should say thank you. Most don't pay any attention. I feel I need to do the honor guard. And I never would have thought about joining without having been in the military," Wilson said. He performs the rifle volley at the graveside. "We don't know these people (be- ing buried). But I give them a thought. It's not just a person. (They were military)."
"No. I don't get paid to do it. And if it became a chore, I wouldn't do it," Wilson added.
Ken Skelton, 80, of Colora, has been in the honor guard since 1995. He served in the Marine Corps from 1956-1959. "I was a Reservist in high school. In my time, unless you were rich or your parents owned a business, - that's what you did, you went in the service," said Skelton, who later worked in both finance and for Philadelphia Electric Company. "My stepfather was in World War II. I'm a proud veteran. That's what you're supposed to do," said Skelton. "I've probably done 1300-1400 funerals. It means a lot to me to do this. It's a way to give something back. It means a lot to be in the honor guard. You feel honored to do it. No matter what the weather."
"Veterans Day means that people should understand that freedom isn't free. People put their life on the line to give us the place we live in," Skelton added.