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Retired Marines perform at funerals around Virginia: 'It's our commitment'

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 13:14:35-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Even during the dog days of summer retirement, Spike Williamson busy. When the Henrico man is not playing with his pups, he’s planning his next getaway. Not to a tropical destination. But to the same places across central Virginia, over and over again.

“Farmville, Quantico, Suffok... Amelia is our top spot. Colonial Heights, Petersburg and Hopewell. It's our commitment," Williamson said.

For Spike, the call of duty could ring at any time. Every couple of weeks or so the years melt away for this old Marine, drilling one more time.

The 75-year-old commands a group of retirees as they turn back the hands of time for a different sort of military operation. These aging service members are serving from the heart. The group of about 20 Marines performs at funerals for fellow veterans of all different branches.

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“We take it real seriously. We know what to do. We practice at it," Williamson said. “Everyone has to know how to do everything... We’ve done this over 300 times."

On this day, the Honor Guard bids 'goodbye' to Navy veteran Larry Spahn.

“Didn’t know Larry at all but I knew in heart and spirt as a veteran and a man who loved his country," said Lonny Fry.

Members of the Honor Guard travel as far away as the Northern Neck. Their presence does not go unnoticed by Larry's loved ones.

“To see these guys doing this? Oh God. It is such a joy," said Larry's uncle Carson Reel. “God bless them. I’m so glad they’re doing this.”

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“And we do this at no cost to any family member," said Honor Guard member Joe Washington.

These Marines are not paid, they volunteer.

“We’ve been out in 20-degree weather. The rain. Broiling heat," said Lee Smith. “I would say 95 percent of the funerals we do or maybe more we wouldn’t know the person.”

“They’re coming out here risking their own health here in a pandemic. They’re also risking their health during a hot day in the middle of the summer," said Chaplain David Cole.

Satisfaction comes from knowing Mr. Spahn is receiving a proper send-off.

Many served in Vietnam, and 50 years later they're ready to answer the call no matter where it takes them.

“I find that these guys are like true brothers like when they say, “Once a Marine Always a Marine," said Joe Washington.

When the service ends the old Marines go their separate way till the next veteran's farewell.

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“Makes you feel good. Makes you glad what we’re doing," Williamson said. “Everyone is committed.”

Spike Williamson and his band of brothers are living up to the Marine motto - Semper Fi. Always Faithful well into their golden years.

“If you do want to commit to us," says Spike. "This is what you’re getting into. You got to be prepared for that and they guys are.”

Spike said every veteran who has passed away is eligible for Military Honors.

If your loved one's service was disrupted or delayed because of the pandemic Mr. Williamson says to reach out to the honor guard at 804-325-4199.

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