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Indy Honor Guard in need of more veterans to continue performing funeral honors

The group has seen an uptick in military funerals and needs volunteers to give veterans the proper honors as they're buried.

INDIANAPOLIS — Last month, veteran Henry Thornton Jr. was laid to rest without any military honors. Thanks to fellow veterans, the local hero finally received those honors during a special ceremony Friday.

The organization that renders those military honors said they are in desperate need of volunteers as the demand continues to increase in the Indianapolis area.

"We were averaging just under 300 funerals a year and now we feel pretty confident that unfortunately, we will eclipse 600 this year," said Commander Ron Montague.  

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Military Honor Guard (IMMHG) formed in 2014. The nonprofit organization only has 24 members right now and are currently spreading themselves thin in order to fulfill requests from Hoosier families.  

"For example, we had five funerals yesterday. I had two teams doing five funerals," he said.

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He said right now, the biggest challenge they face is getting younger veterans involved. Most members are older than 60. 

"We've got to find a way to tap into those Iraq, Gulf War vets because they are at that younger age level but a lot of them are still working full-time and providing for families," Commander Montague said. "We don’t need members to give us seven days a week. We are looking for three or four days a week. If they can just do a service, it helps us share the load."

If they don't get more volunteers, the fear is they won't be able to serve every funeral request and in return, a veteran would not receive their final honors.  

"This is a legacy and we always do what we can do to make sure everybody is trained so we can carry it on in the future," Commander Montague said.

Sadly, it can be common for a veteran to not receive military honors due to lack of knowledge or miscommunication. The pandemic made matters worse.

"You'd be shocked at the number of times it happens, especially with the COVID year we just came out of. A lot of military honors didn’t even happen. That's why we are doing a lot of memorials this year. We are going back to gravesites where they’ve already been buried, and we are doing memorial services to give them honors," Commander Montague said.  

The organization is also a very tight-knit family and often it can make members feel more connected to their military roots by bringing honor and dignity to fellow veterans. Commander Montague admits he didn't talk much about his time in the military until he joined IMMHG.  

"It's that common bond and that common thread. It is tremendous therapy, especially those struggling from PTSD," he said. 

Fill out an application here to sign up. To qualify, you must be a veteran and honorably discharged. A recruit will shadow five services to decide if it's something they want to do because the job can be emotional.

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"That environment is very depressing and very sad. but when you do it and you see the appreciation on the family members face, that's why you're there. You know that's why you went, and that's why we continue to do what we do," he said.  

IMMHG has also unfortunately been seeing an increase in demand because of a high suicide rate among veterans and active service members across the country. 

Commander Montague reminds veterans that services are available, but they have to be willing to reach out. It's important to let a veteran service officer or family member know you are struggling.

For more information about IMMHG, click here. The group also has color guard and flag education.  

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