The soldier in white gloves knelt down under the funeral tent, a folded flag in his hands. As he prepared to speak words reserved for family members of the fallen, he looked at the face in front of him.
Tears were streaming down a young son’s cheeks.
“It’s something you never get used to,” says Harold Redding, Commander of the York County Veterans Honor Guard. “It’s moving and very emotional—every time.”
‘Always a privilege’
In the past 30 years, no York County veteran’s family has been denied a military funeral. Not once.
The honor guard performed its first service on August 29, 1988; by its 30th anniversary this summer, members will have completed more than 8,300. Its membership of about 30 men have performed six services in a day when necessary. They’ve done 51 in a month, when called. Crisp. Consistent. Professional.
See them in pressed uniforms, their black shoes in the cemetery grass. Hear the crack of a rifle volley, then another, then another. Listen to the sound of taps as it rolls across the fields.
Each ceremony is about dignity, about respect for service.
“It’s an honor to be asked by a family,” Redding says. “It’s always a privilege.”
A grateful nation
Harold Redding retired as a first sergeant after serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and later with the National Guard and the Army Reserve. Today, he schedules 300-plus honor guard services a year, crisscrossing York County.
And while he’s personally performed more than 600, he still remembers the first: that son of a soldier in tears. It’s never gotten easier, he says. Tomorrow will be just as difficult.
But purpose dampens pain.
So, he’ll begin again: “On behalf of the President of the United States and grateful nation…”
Tears will fall around him. But one sergeant will lean in and quietly complete his duty to a family. He’ll finish once more with a whisper.
“May God grant you peace and understanding.”