Priceless Honors - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Priceless Honors

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BILLINGS -

It is possibly the most beautiful ceremonial honor that can be bestowed. However, it can't be bought by money, privilege, or position. It can only be earned.

There is a group of men and women in Northwest Wyoming who often travel hundreds of miles to perform the ceremony, for free. It is a last goodbye, and a thank you for a job well done. It is the military funeral honors ceremony.

It's performed for every veteran who has served in war or peace, free of charge. It is a tribute from other veterans.

On a sunny, windy winter day, a man who served in the Navy for 44 years is laid to rest. Gerald Haugen was 75 when he died in a car accident. The men and women in the honor guard are not paid. Some have to take off work, but they do this for free.

VFW Post 2673 Honor Guard Commander Bill Buntyn said, "We have some real bad weather here in Cody, and sometimes twenty below zero, but we still go out and take care of our funerals and our veterans that passed away."

The group is always graveside before the funeral, perfecting dress uniforms, practicing formation. The veteran's nephew, Rick Haugen, serves in the honor guard in North Dakota. He asked if he could perform in his uncle's ceremony in Cody.

Honor Guard member, Rick Haugen said, "It's the only think I know. It's the one thing I can offer."

Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the National Guard are represented here. They include veterans of every major conflict since and including WWII. Jack Allen has served in the honor guard for 55 years.

Amazingly, they do this for themselves.

Army Veteran, Larry Baker explained, "I was very seriously wounded when I was in Vietnam, and spent several months in hospitals and rehabilitation. It's very therapeutic to me to be able to go out and shoot and be on the honor guard."

They do it for the veteran.

Navy Veteran Clint Campbell said, "I believe anybody who has served in the past deserves this."

They do it for the family.

Buntyn hands the folded flag from the casket to the widow. He whispers a private tribute. He said, "It's the most honorable thing that a veteran can do is to present the flag to the widow of the fallen veteran. It's the most honorable thing that I can do in my lifetime."

Any veteran who has served in wartime or peace is eligible for the military funeral honors. The members of the Cody VFW Post 2673 are not paid, but the post takes donation for uniform costs.

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