Marc Schoder: PNT Staff Writer
American Legion Post 31 of Portales performed its 100th flag presentation Wednesday, more than four years after its first presentation on a snowy January morning in Causey.
The group first started the flag presentations to enable all veterans to have military funeral honors as provided under the National Defense Authorization Act.
“It’s the last thing we can do for the ones who came back,” said James Kyte, a member of the team. “It’s an honor for us. It’s just something that needed to be done.”
The 100th presentation was made to the family of Curtis Tiffin, a World War II Seabee who was buried Wednesday at Portales Cemetery.
Joe Blair and Dennis Darrow were the inaugural members in the group, which started presenting flags in January of 2001. Their first presentation was to the family of Warren Copeland, a Causey native.
Three more volunteers have joined over the years.
“This post started the idea of doing the flag presentations on its own,” said Blair, commander of the post and a World War II veteran. “Every veteran deserves a military funeral.”
Group members purchased dress uniforms with the American Legion picking up the costs of the shirts and the belt buckle.
After that, it’s merely a case of volunteering time for a fellow veteran.
“We never ask to do it,” said group member Harrie Black, a veteran of two wars. “We only do it when Scott (Reeves, funeral director) from Wheeler Mortuary calls us.”
Under the act, surviving family members can request military funeral services, usually through a funeral director. The funeral home purchases the flag, but is later reimbursed through the U.S. government, Darrow said.
“It is an honor to be a part of a farewell to a soldier who leaves their family with a bit of pride,” said Vivian Cato, one of the presentation team members.
With some presentations made on short notice, the group has several presentations that can be done if one or more members aren’t in the Portales area that day.
At the end of each presentation, Blair kneels and gives the family the flag after it has been folded in adherence to military standards.
“The soldiers deserve the best from us,” said Darrow. “The presentation of the flag is very solemn and touching.”