The Honor Guard Boys

Veterans still in the service of others
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, May 23, 2019
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Photo by Erin Sweeney
            The Absarokee VFW Post 7311 honor guard at last summer’s Veteran’s Wall memorial ceremony in Columbus (from the left): Holding the POW/MIA flag is Jack Weikel, Bart Lawson, Gary Borland, Jerry Brown, Dale Wassmann, Joe Welter, Denny Williams, Ed Viig and Jerry Gardner. Not pictured are bugler Mick Handley and Roger Nummerdor.

While Memorial Day tends to be a day of leisure for most folks, it’s a working day for the honor guard of Absarokee VFW Post 7311.

The 11-man crew will start at 8:15 a.m. Monday morning in Reed Point, then move to Columbus for a 10:30 a.m. ceremony, and then finally to Absarokee for a noon ceremony, followed by a meal at the Absarokee Evangelical Church at approximately 12:30 p.m.

Commander Jerry Brown, Bart Lawson and Mick Handley are three of the 11-man honor guard that stopped by the News recently for a visit about the organization’s activities.

At age 83, Handley is the most seasoned of the trio and serves as the bugler and former commander. He served in combat in the United States Marine Corps.

Brown is a former U.S. Army man. Lawson served in the U.S. Navy. The trio represents the Absarokee VFW Post 7311, which is 80-members strong. That number is one reason why the organization is so busy. It takes 11 members to form a proper honor guard — one bugler, seven shooters, one commander and two flag holders. And it takes practice, and familiarity, to be a solid, smoothly-flowing honor guard.

The 7311 delivers both, which leads them to places such as Roscoe, From-berg, Joliet and sometimes in Laurel and Billings. The group is happy to serve.


“There are only two words that scare us,” said Handley, looking at his two friends. “Bearcreek.”

The three then broke into laughter and explained how the cemetery at Bearcreek, located just outside of Red Lodge, is built on a hill and the challenge that presents while conducting any kind of ceremony.

But the good-natured quip is not a complaint. The men are glad to be able to serve so many communities in that capacity. Given the fact that they all are veterans themselves, the importance is even greater.

“It’s an honor,” said Brown, adding that laughter and fun are also big elements of their duties.

In addition to Memorial Day services, the group provides services year-round through funerals, flag burning ceremonies, parades and other community projects.

Fundraising activities get underway next month with the annual rifle raffle that begins at Fishtail Family Fun Day in June. The raffle spans several months and helps support the annual Patriot Pen and Voice of Democracy writing contests. The group also puts on a Christmas dinner each year.

“We’re pretty busy year round,” said Lawson.


The VFW Columbus Post 4762, Absarokee Post 7311 and Reed Point Post 1025 invite all veterans and the public to a Memorial Day celebration, titled “Remembering D-Day, June 6, 1944” on Monday, May 27.

The service will be held at the Columbus Mountain View Cemetery off Highway 10 at 10:30 a.m. Commander Dan Alberda will officiate. The national anthem will be sung by Brylee Good, with state Sen. David Howard and Evelyn Williams speaking.

A military anthem medley will be played, with attendees being asked to stand during the playing of their branch. There will also be a 21-gun salute, a benediction and post-service music with the top hits from 1944 being played.