When members of the Patriot Guard in South Dakota learned that the family of a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran wanted an escort for the veteran’s cremains as they traveled through the state, they reached out to some of the state’s American Legion Riders.
The result: the cremains of U.S. Army helicopter pilot Herbert S. Rand III were greeted by Legion Riders in Montana and escorted through the state on the way to their final resting place at Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Legionnaire John Murphy – a member of American Legion Post 123 in the Philippines who rides with Legion Riders Chapter 22 in Rapid City during the six months he and his wife spend in South Dakota – was among those Riders who received Rand’s urn, flag and plaque in Alzada, Mont., and escorted them to American Legion Post 311 at Piedmont, S.D. From there, the Riders escorted the cremains to Vivian, S.D., where they were transferred to members of the Riders and Patriot Guard from Eastern South Dakota for their journey to Kansas.
Murphy said providing an escort for a veteran he and the others in the escort had never met – including a Civil War veteran years ago – is out of a sense of obligation to honor all who have served.
“There is nothing good or glorious about war, but until a super majority of humans come to that realization, those of us that cherish liberty and justice for all must be prepared and willing to defend those ideals,” Murphy said. “Sadly, now less than 1% of adult Americans are willing to serve in the military. It is for those reasons that as an American Legion Rider, it is my duty to honor men and women that are serving and veterans that served in the past. One of the ways to honor them is if the family asks the ALR and Patriot Guard to provide escort for the remains of fallen comrades to their final resting place, we do so with dignity.”
Murphy said he and his fellow Legion Riders extend their efforts to attending funerals for unaccompanied veterans at Black Hills National Cemetery. “As part of that commemoration, we take the paper with the name of the unaccompanied veteran and carry it with us for the day,” said Murphy.
But the Riders’ efforts aren’t limited to those who have passed. “When allowed, we visit VA facilities for monthly socials with the long-term patients,” Murphy said. “For active-duty servicemembers, we attend and stand a flag line at deployment and return-home ceremonies to show that we care and support them.”