While driving along a highway just north of his hometown of Longmont, Colo., Dick Kounovsky noticed that the two American flags placed at a roadside memorial were torn and tattered. As captain of the honor guard for American Legion Post 32 in Longmont, Kounovsky thought the flags placed in remembrance of the fallen veteran and Colorado State Trooper Taylor Thyfault should be replaced immediately. When he asked for the opinions of the other honor guard members, they all said, “Let’s do it.”
The honor guard acquired two new American flags and replaced the ones at Thyfault’s memorial site, saluting once they were installed. While doing so, passersby cheered and honked their horns, giving the honor guard “a sense of thanks,” Kounovsky said. “We thought it was necessary to replace the flags because tattered, torn flags should be taken down and properly disposed of and these were terrible. It was something that we thought we should do.”
Post 32’s honor guard, which is made up of 26 members, provided military honors for 118 funerals last year and participated in 40 other events. These events included speaking about the American flag to local schools, churches and retirement homes.
“This is just one active, small honor guard here in Colorado,” Kounovsky said. “We are patriotic. That’s what we like to do ... replace flags, talk about the flag at schools and retirement homes.”
The honor guard speaks to eighth grade students at Altona Middle School in Boulder, Colo., about the flag and veterans prior to their annual field trip to Washington, D.C. During the honor guard’s presentation, they show the students a U.S., Betsy Ross, 24-star and 50-star flag, and give the students a copy of the Legion’s “Flag of the United States” booklet. The flag booklet shows the correct way to display the flag, shares how to respect the flag, gives a brief history on the flag and provides lyrics to the national anthem.
“We are preparing the students for what they are about to see in D.C. – the American flag at the Smithsonian (Institution) and war memorials,” said Kounovsky. “Kids are not being taught anything about patriotism, and that’s what we are trying to press on these kids is to be patriotic ... come out to ceremonies for Memorial Day, Flag Day, Veterans Day.”
During the honor guard’s visit to the eighth grade classroom earlier this year, they met a cousin of Thyfault’s and were informed that the students wanted to lay a wreath in his honor at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C. They didn’t have funds for the wreath, so Post 32’s honor guard donated the $50 for it.
When it comes to Post 32’s honor guard, Kounovsky loves “the way the guys are all friends and the way they are ready and willing when I call on them for a funeral or anything else,” he said. “At military funerals we read about the veteran, do a volley of three rifles, have a live bugler, then we fold and present the flag. And that’s very important to these guys.
“We just go do what we think is correct.”