Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275 firing squad, left to right, Roger Lamb, Butch Brewer, Ray Magnus, and Dick Coon, stand at attention during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News
Honor guard 1st Sgt. Justin Tumlinson and Staff Sgt. Flor Hart, of the Army National Guard, prepare to fold an American flag during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday. To the far right is Virgil Fraze, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News
James Smith, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275, plays taps during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday.
Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News
Properly folding a flag:
Begin by holding it waist-high with another person so that its surface is parallel to the ground. Fold the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars, holding the bottom and top edges securely. Fold the flag again lengthwise with the blue field on the outside.
Make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to meet the open top edge of the flag. Turn the outer point inward, parallel to the open edge, to form a second triangle. The triangular folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in this manner.
When the flag is completely folded, only a triangular blue field of stars should be visible. LIMA For former military members, it is the last tribute they receive for serving in the U.S. armed forces. For local veteran organizations, it is a tradition they plan to keep going forever.
Nearly everyone has attended the funeral of a loved one in which military rites are conducted. The presentation of the flag to the spouse or the next of kin is a tear-jerking moment, and the three-volley salute can be startling. At parades, the color guard serves as a symbol of protecting regimental colors. Each uniformed service branch in the U.S. armed forces has its own official honor guard. Most state National Guard units have a ceremonial guard as well. Also, many local and state agencies and organizations provide the service for local veterans who have died. Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations often perform the ceremonies locally for departed veterans.
Its one last chance for us to honor our fellow veterans, Richard Brewer said. Brewer is a lifetime member of VFW Post 1275 and is a member of its honor guard. He is also the incoming commander. A standard part of any military funeral is the ceremonial shooting of three volleys in honor of the deceased. The three spent shell casings are presented to his or her next of kin. Taps is then played.
Anyone who is entitled to a military funeral, which is generally anyone who dies on active duty, honorably discharged veterans, and military retirees, is entitled to the three rifle volleys, subject to availability of honor guard teams. For a flag presentation, before the casket is buried, the pall bearers perform the ritualistic folding of the flag, a solemn procedure that involves precise and crisp movements to fold the flag into the standard triangular fold for safekeeping. Once the fold is complete, the flag bearer hands the flag usually to the military chaplain. The chaplain walks to the service member s next of kin and presents the folded flag to this person, usually accompanying the action with words of condolence. The chaplain then performs a facing movement and returns to his position in the funeral. All veterans are entitled to military rites at their funeral. The biggest question is what the departed veteran or the family wants and notifying the right people to make sure it is set up. Family members should discuss the fact that their deceased family member was a veteran with the funeral director and what exactly they would like during the service.
They should have a copy of their DD214s discharge papers, said Randy Micheal, member of the American Legion honor guard in St. Marys. The key is letting someone know.
Micheal said the funeral director generally will know who to contact to arrange for the appropriate services for the individual. Also, many times the family will elect to have the flag presentation, but not the three-volley salute, or vice versa. A big problem with local honor guards has been the considerable amount of time that passed between the end of the Vietnam War and next major U.S. conflict, Operation Desert Storm. They are always looking for new members to serve for the ceremonies.
It hasn t just been an issue with the honor guard, but on the VFW as a whole, said VFW Quartermaster John Mullins of the Ottawa post. We have about 60 guys right now. However, many of them are older and it is hard for them to hold a rifle for 10 minutes. There was the huge gap between Vietnam and Desert Storm. At first, when Vietnam soldiers returned, it wasn t considered a war and they weren t allowed to join the VFW. That has changed, but a lot of guys still hold a lot of animosity towards that. It is clear that serving on the honor guard is a matter of pride for most involved.
It makes me proud to be an American, Micheal said. Its a matter of American pride. In means a lot to me to present the flag on behalf of the American government to the family.
There was just something inside of me that said I should do it, Brewer said. Its a chance to honor our veterans. That s why we do it.
For these guys, they see the deaths of military members in the paper all the time, Mullins said. The fact that we are burying a brother, they hold that dearly.
A rifle party usually has an odd number of members, usually three to seven. The firearm used is typically a rifle. The members stand so that the muzzles are pointed over the casket. However, if mourners are present near the grave, the party stands some distance away, at least 50 feet, so as to not deafen the attendees. If the service is being performed indoors, the firing party usually stands outside the building, often near the front entrance. On the command of the noncommissioned officer in charge, the party members raise their weapons and fire three times in unison. Modern U.S. military parties use M1, M14 or M16 rifles. The M1 and M14 are generally preferred over the current issue M-16 because the appearance of these older rifles is more traditional and the charging handles are more easily operated in a dignified, ceremonial manner. In the U.S. military, the color guard carries the U.S. flag and other flags appropriate to its position in the chain of command. Typically these include a unit flag and a departmental flag (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard). In addition to the flag bearers, who are positioned in the center of the color guard, there are two or more individuals who carry rifles and/or sabers. This is a symbol that the flag will always be protected.
The color guard is formed and marched in one rank at close interval. Because the U.S. flag must always be in the position of honor on the right, the color guard must execute a special movement to reverse direction. It does not execute rear march, nor does it execute about face. Rather, it performs a maneuver derived from the standard counter-column command, generally known as counter march or colors reverse march, in order to keep the precedence of flags in order. Other drill movements performed by the color guard include presenting arms, left and right wheel marches, eyes right upon passing the reviewing stand during a parade, casing/uncasing the colors, and fixing/unfixing bayonets. The official honor guard of every branch is located in the Washington, D.C., area, though nearly every military installation will have its own honor guard for local ceremonies and events. The honor guard units in the Washington, D.C., area represent the military as a whole and the United States as a nation, and perform numerous ceremonies on behalf of the U.S. president. Since World War II, The Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in time of national emergency or civil disturbance. Arlington National Cemetery s Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded by members of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275 firing squad, left to right, Roger Lamb, Butch Brewer, Ray Magnus, and Dick Coon, stand at attention during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday. Honor guard 1st Sgt. Justin Tumlinson and Staff Sgt. Flor Hart, of the Army National Guard, prepare to fold an American flag during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday. To the far right is Virgil Fraze, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275. James Smith, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1275, plays taps during the burial ceremony of William Spacer, of Lima, a World War II veteran, at Gethsemani Cemetery on Thursday.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.
AXTON He always had a smile on his face and a bright future ahead of him. He played for the George Washington High School basketball team and was voted best dressed in his senior class. That s how Tion Burton is remembered by those who knew him. Burton, a 17-year-old who had just graduated from GW, was shot and killed during a high school graduation party at Axton Lodge, The Pines at 4261 Martin Drive early Sunday morning.
Friends and others who talked to the Register & Bee were heartbroken and left in disbelief that it happened to one of the good guys.
Every teacher I know is shocked and deeply saddened, said Eva Cassada, who taught Burton in English 12 this past semester. Tion was one of the good guys who seemed to have a promising future. It s jarring to think he graduated one Saturday and was killed the next Saturday. The incident also left at least two others injured. Shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, Pittsylvania County authorities received a report of a shooting at the banquet hall in Axton, according to a news release from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff s Office.
Deputies found a large crowd of attendees from Henry and Pittsylvania counties and Danville and learned that multiple gunshots had been fired. Victims were transported via private vehicles to hospitals in Danville and Martinsville, the release stated. As of 6 a.m. Sunday, authorities said three people had been shot. Two were taken to Memorial Hospital of Martinsville by private vehicles. One of those victims was airlifted to Carilion Hospital in Roanoke to undergo surgery, but both were listed in stable condition. A third victim, Burton, was pronounced dead at Danville Regional Medical Center.
While authorities have not released the name of the victim killed, GW educators received an email naming Burton as the victim.
I knew him to be pleasant and friendly a kid you looked forward to seeing every morning, Cassada said. Nichole Bowser, who sat in front of Burton in Cassada s English class, said he was always laughing and joking. She said she will remember his smile. When Bowser brought snacks to class, Burton always asked for food. He and his friends, playing around, Bowser said.
He also talked about going to college and playing basketball, she said. Bowser found out about her friend s death when she woke up Sunday morning.
I didn t believe it, she said. It still doesn t feel real that he s gone. Nichole s mother, Lisa Bowser, is a security officer at GW who knew Tion for four years.
He was raised right, Lisa Bowser said. He came from a good family. His mom and dad were good parents The entire city of Danville is touched by this tragedy.
Recalling Burton s big smile and his awesome personality, she said she was devastated and couldn t understand what happened to him.
I had the pleasure of watching him walking across the stage [to get his diploma], she said. He just lights up a room when he walks in. I don t even know how to feel. Burton was an outstanding young man who had his whole life ahead of him, Lisa Bowser said.
It feels like we lost our own child, she said. That s how close he was to a lot of us. Ron Parson, who was Burton s basketball coach at GW, recalled Burton as very likable and a good listener.
He was a joy to coach, Parson said. He was very talented. He listened well and he was very competitive.
The shooting was shocking to hear, said Parson, who found out when told by the Register & Bee. Parson was in Charlotte, North Carolina, while interviewed via telephone Sunday afternoon. Parson said he was floored by Burton s death.
It s really sad when it happens to anyone, especially young people especially somebody you know so well. he said. Parson talked with Burton in the spring of 2016 about improving his grades so he could play basketball.
He did what I asked him to do to be eligible to play, said Parson, who retired this past school year as head coach.
Employees at Axton Lodge said nothing like the shooting had ever happened before at the 20-year-old business.
This is the first time the law has been called and someone got hurt or killed, employee Penny Keatts told media outlets at the property Sunday morning. Attendees included graduates and students from Tunstall, Dan River and GW high schools, as well as others from Martinsville and Henry County, employees said. Axton Lodge has a lot of events during the summer months. Keatts said she was upset about what happened.
I feel like this won t handled right, Keatts said, adding that the party started around 9 or 9:30 p.m. Saturday. A child was killed.
A variety of events are held at the lodge, including weddings, family reunions, birthday parties, baby showers and wedding showers. Neither Crystal Woods, also an employee, nor Keatts were at the party. There should have been security at the entrance checking for weapons and patrolling the property, Keatts said. No weapons are allowed there, she said. Blood stains could be seen on the floor and on a chair inside the building Sunday morning.
Employees said events will continue to be held at Axton Lodge. A wedding is scheduled for the upcoming weekend, they said. Keatts said her heart goes out to Burton s loved ones and that she wished she had been there to protect him. The case is being treated as a homicide.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Pittsylvania County Sheriff s Office at (434) 432-7800, Pittsylvania County Crime Stoppers at (800) 791-0044 or email information to
3-year-old missing in forest found safe
A 3-year-old boy missing for 24 hours in the Sam Houston National Forest was found safe Sunday afternoon. Jimmy Williams of the New Waverly Fire Department said the child was alert and smiling. The boy, identified only by his first name, Ezra, was found by searchers in heavy brush about 400 yards from his family s campsite. The family was setting up camp in a remote part of the forest Saturday about 50 miles north of Houston when he disappeared.
More than 200 people from several agencies had been looking for him in the forest, which covers parts of three counties between Huntsville and Conroe. The boy was taken to a hospital for examination. Daytime temperatures had been in the 90s with high humidity. HARRIS COUNTY
Gunman killed outside eatery
A security guard at a Houston-area fast-food restaurant shot and killed a man the guard says pointed a gun at him, Harris County authorities say. The guard told deputies a man driving a car opened fire in the parking lot just before midnight Saturday, then turned the gun on him. The guard responded with multiple shots.
The driver tried to flee but crashed his car. When police arrived, they found him dead inside the vehicle. Authorities said the case will be referred to a grand jury to determine whether any charges are warranted.
Witness recalls deadly train crash
A witness to a head-on train collision 11 months ago in the Texas Panhandle told federal investigators the ensuing blast looked like the Hindenburg airship famous in film and photos when it blew up in 1937. The Amarillo Globe-News reported that documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board include witness comments and an interview with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe investigator who spoke with the only crew member to survive the crash on June 28.
The crew member thought the train conductor was behind him when he jumped from the train after it collided with another Burlington Northern Santa Fe train. The conductor was among three people killed. The NTSB has yet to release its final report. A preliminary report says the train ignored light signals before striking the oncoming train.
Cemetery being searched for migrant remains
The remains of more than 10 unidentified people have been removed from a Rio Grande Valley cemetery along the Texas-Mexico border as part of a continuing project to identify migrants who died and were buried for years without any markers. More than 20 students from Texas State University in San Marcos and the University of Indianapolis have been at the Starr County Cemetery in Rio Grande City, where the director of the South Texas Human Rights Center, Eddie Canales, says the county has failed to comply with Texas law and provide DNA samples of unidentified remains.
Texas State anthropology professor Kate Spradley told The Brownsville Herald that no one has kept track of burials and that those most familiar with the cemetery rely only on memory to determine where remains might be buried.
Beach drivers warned to watch for turtles
Marine animal experts are asking drivers on Texas Gulf Coast beaches to be watching for sea turtles now in the middle of their nesting season. Turtle Patrol members have found at least two of the animals dead in recent days near Surfside Beach and near San Luis Pass in Brazoria County. They believe both were hit by vehicles. Henry Peker of the Turtle Patrol told Houston television station KHOU that the turtles nesting season runs from early April through the middle of July, meaning this is prime nesting time.
Experts are anticipating the number of nests this year along the Texas coast to reach historic numbers. The Turtle Island Restoration Project has reported 295 nests so far, up significantly from the 209 found during the entire nesting season last year.