Veterans Honoring Veterans

RENTON - The youngest is 60 years old. The oldest is 85.

Twice a month, the Renton VFW Honor Guard is at Tahoma National Cemetery to honor war veterans who have died.

They do not know the names of the people they help bury. But they know the sacrifice.

Honor Guard Chaplain Ken George and Captain Dan Bolstad perform the ceremony, weaving in the importance of serving in the military.

"He gladly went forth with comrades young and old to preserve our heritage of freedom," Bolstad tells mourners.

Outside the shelter, on this day in the rain, stand eight other members of the honor guard. There is a Sergeant at Arms and seven riflemen who perform the 21 gun salute.

Sometimes, they outnumber the people attending the funeral.

"We're maybe 7, 8, 10 people. And they only show up with two or three," says Ted Mazur. "And that's all they have to show to put him away. I feel, at least I gave something to him."

A decade ago, it was common for just a few people to show up for the honor guard. These veterans felt that was an insult to those who served.

"I felt terrible. I felt sick that anybody would not get the ceremony, the honor they should have," says Bolstad.

So they organized the state's first standing VFW honor guard, where members committed themselves to regularly attend funerals.

They are proud to perform the honors. Even when they are weary.

"I seen too many of 'em die," says Bob Puhich. "So I make it. It might be a little tough, but I do it."

Some of them have done this more than a thousand times. They average 10 funerals a month.

At times, they have 10 in a day.

And even when they think they are too old, too tired to do it again, "I continue," says Bolstad. "And like I told him, I'll continue until I can't do it anymore."

They come back.

Veterans honoring veterans.