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Veterans honor departed comrades

Local detail provides honor services at military funerals throughout the Auburn area
By: Kylea Scott Journal correspondent
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The Auburn Area Honor Guard?s first military honors funeral was conducted at the New Auburn Cemetery in November 2001, according to Terry Crouson, commander of the Auburn Area Honor Guard. They now have 35 members and have performed at more than 500 veteran funerals, Crouson said. The Auburn Area Honor Guard was founded by Gene Freeland and Terry Crouson in 2001. The idea originated while they were placing flags at a cemetery for Memorial Day. After Crouson?s father, a World War II veteran, passed away in July of 1983, he said he was bothered that the military branch he was active in wasn?t providing honor ceremonies for veterans. At the time of his father?s death, Crouson was active in the Army Reserve and he was able to use his military status to give his father a full honors ceremony. ?The veteran who passes away deserves the honors. Whether he or she gets the honors, they don?t know, but the family does. It?s good closure for the family,? Crouson said. The Auburn Area Honor Guard performs recitals at veteran funerals throughout the Auburn area, including Colfax, Lincoln, Roseville, Newcastle, and all the cemeteries in Auburn, he said. The recitals can include the firing of three rifle rounds, a flag folding ceremony, and Taps played by a bugler, but it always depends on what the family wants, Crouson said. ?We are usually contacted by the family of the deceased, or by the funeral home, if our services are required,? Crouson added. Gene Freeland, second commander of the Auburn Area Honor Guard, said he helped start it because he felt that all veterans deserve an honorary funeral. He noticed that The National Guard and other honor services were unable to perform at every veteran memorial in the area, because there were so many veterans passing away, he said. Being part of the honor guard makes him appreciate veterans even more than he did before, he said. ?I am able to appreciate the services that the veterans before me have provided to our country,? he added. In 1949 Russell Holland, Auburn Area Honor Guard member, joined the California National Guard and was discharged because he was underage, he said. According to Holland, he returned home to finish his last year of high school and witnessed his friends from the National Guard come home in body bags. After high school, in 1951, Holland joined the Navy and continued to witness the death of his comrades. These experiences are what inspired Holland to join the Auburn Area Honor Guard, he said. Holland said he has been a member of the honor guard for five years. All members are veterans, from all different branches of the military, who volunteer their time to honor fallen veterans, Holland said. ?Honoring the death of others that I have known has been very memorable and touching,? Holland said. He fought back tears as he recalled the recent funeral service honoring his close friend, Bill Nolland. Nolland passed away this month and his funeral was held in Loomis. ?When I played Taps, I broke up,? Holland said. Doing the countries duty for fallen veterans, no matter what branch of service they were in, is his pleasure and his honor, Holland said.