After September 11, 2001, the leadership at Camp Nelson National Cemetery mentioned the need for a volunteer Resident Guard.
Working with American Legion Man O War Post 8, who has a regional Honor Guard rifle detail in place, work was begun to build an equine unit, to replicate military funeral rites that ceased there during the late 1940s. Using equipment parts dating from the 1860s, plans from historic equipment and protocol learned on-site at Arlington National Cemetery, horses were added. Light artillery pieces were built. We presently use a handbuilt replica of an 1849 mountain howitzer.
Because we serve at a National Cemetery/National Shrine and, because it is in a "National Historic Landmark" we meet visitors during the course of our work who are from across the country.
Otherwise, we have visitors dropping by who are studying Civil War history, or doing genealogy or school work. We have contacts with Nicholasville, Lexington, Georgetown, Stanford, Richmond and others in central Kentucky.
Camp Nelson National Cemetery is a quiet place most days. Its
location near the rocky edges of the Palisade cliffs of the Kentucky River
doesn’t lend itself to a place where homes or shopping centers can be built –
the limestone landscape prevents that. For 150 years, not much activity has
happened here, except that singly or a few at a time, nearly 15,000 people have
been laid to rest here. A few times a year now, lots of people come for the day
or a weekend stay, visiting those whom they have loved, and who are no longer
with them. There are nice ceremonies each Memorial Day and Veterans Day that
commemorate their service to our country.
For myself, having lived near here for many years, I am
always drawn to the stories, both of the past and of the present-day, about how
ordinary people have coped in extraordinary times.
As the Resident Guard we would, of course, like to have the finest
of uniforms and the best looking harness, but until we can ‘upgrade’ somewhat,
Our equine unit is not a re-enactor group; they wear the
Civil War Union uniform because that is what Camp Nelson was, a part of the US
Union Army. Our uniforms aren’t as new
as we’d like. One of our horses is arthritic and will soon be retiring. But all
is heart-felt, and the very best performance that can be made. It’s very
fitting and suitable for this quiet national cemetery and national shrine.
It’s important to us to know what visiting honor guards
think, and I know of no better endorsement for what our Camp Nelson Honor Guard
does than the following, a hand-written letter to us by a member of the prestigious
Wright Patterson, Ohio, active Air Force Honor Guard:
“To the members of American Legion Post Eight and the Camp
Nelson Honor Guard members:
I want to thank the American Legion Post Eight and the Camp
Nelson Honor Guard members personally for the performance on the seventeenth of
February in honor of Airman Second Class Larry Frederick. All of the seventy-seven
details that I had been a part of to this date are important to me. However, I
would say that the one I performed on the seventeenth of February at Camp
Nelson National Cemetery stands out.
I was particularly impressed by the caisson carrying the
remains of Larry Frederick, the performers dressed in Civil War uniforms, the
firing party, the cannon, and the riderless horse. After the ceremony I told my
colleague, First Lieutenant DeLeon, who had only performed seven details before
this date, that this was the most impressively executed performance that I have
ever seen and that he should not expect to see one performed more impressively.
I have performed with American Legion, Veterans of Foreign
Wars, and honor guards in the past and I am sure to do it again, but I believe
that I will always remember the distinguished members of Post Eight and Camp
Nelson Honor Guard for their performance. Thank you for your continued service
to our nation and to our honored fallen heroes as they are laid to rest.
First Lieutenant Alexander Rogers
Wright Patterson Air Force Base Honor Guard
So, we are the members of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard.
For as many as we can, for as long as we can, we will continue to serve. Thank you.
Patti Mason Friend, Adjutant
Performing enhanced military funeral rites, using military protocol. We provide a horse, or a pair of horses, a Caisson (a wagon/hearse), a riderless horse with boots inverted, and a light artillery piece. Additional support is provided by either a military (for active-duty), or a volunteer service organization (for retired personnel), who fire a three-volley salute. (formerly called a 21-gun salute.) The federal government provides two servicemen from the same branch of the military, who fold and present the flag to the family.
Across our country, believing that our veterans and military personnel deserve more, Veteran Service Organizations like American Legion and VFWs, perform rifle details. Camp Nelson Honor Guard, emulating Arlington and Fort Sam Houston, albeit at a more modest scale, bring an enhanced military tradition by bringing an equine unit. Members of CNHG have trained at Arlington.
Horses form the basis for all that we do at the CNHG. We have used rescue, donated and on-loan horses since our inception. Our work is proof that performance horses can retrain/repurpose beautifully. Because we have added a second, drivable caisson, more horses needed to be brought on. We needed a pair of trained harness horse geldings.To that end, in the fall of 2013, two standardbreds and a white Arabian gelding were donated. One standardbred is in training offsite; the second is calmer and ready to be started as the caisson horse. The Arabian will be the back-up for the present riderless horse. These have been performance horses - the two standardbreds came off the racetrack; the Arabian was a 35-50 mile endurance horse. Really great animals, retrained for a new life.
Our members are active and retired military personnel. The need is great to offer assistance, through these experienced military people, to active duty soldiers and veterans in our area. We have established links with Fort Knox, which is now an US Army Human Resources Center. The Camp Nelson Honor Guard want to use our Headquarters as a venue to host our active duty personnel.
Veterans Treatment Court - New national programs have begun to help veterans who are brought to court, called aVeterans Treatment Court. Fayette County has recently implemented such a court, to give veterans another avenue to turn their lives around. Camp Nelson Honor Guard would like to assist in this new program.
As a Veterans Service Organization, Camp Nelson Honor Guard is in a unique position to aid veterans and military in central Kentucky, by acting as host for workshops, seminars and events that impact them in our area. Drawing on the combined military knowledge of officers and non-commissioned personnel in the vicinity, we can assist individuals who are struggling with issues in their lives.
We can also act as liaison between retired personnel with what concerns them most.
Present-day American culture includes many who enjoy motorcycles. The wide-spread use of motorcycles began in Europe during the World wars, and afterwards servicemen and women continued to ride. Today there are approximately 100,000 motorcycles registered in Kentucky.
Many motorcyclists have come to Camp Nelson National Cemetery over the years: Kentucky Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, Task Force Omega, first responders, police, fire, first responders. They are respectful, patriotic men and women who are there to honor their friends' and families' service to their country.
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