MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of Minnesotans are in the nation’s capitol Sunday to honor our country’s fallen heroes. They’ll be participating in the national Memorial Day celebration in Washington D.C., invited there by the President.

But right now, President Barack Obama is marking the holiday with a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan.

Nearly 2,200 military members have died while fighting in that war.

The United States and NATO have begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan ahead of the end-of-year deadline.

When local service members don’t make it back home, the rifle squad at Fort Snelling is there to honor their lives.

On Monday, the first-ever volunteer squad of its kind will perform on what may be the nation’s most solemn stage.

The Fort Snelling Chapel was packed on Sunday — and some of the families in attendance were there because of who was not.

And to punctuate the service, the squad is made up of volunteers of all ages, from 51 to 95 — among them, 83-year-old Korean War vet Andy Urness.

“Once in a while you get a thank you, but you get appreciation whether they say anything or not,” he said.

They joined for different reasons.

“They were at my dad’s funeral,” Urness said. “I was sort of depressed and it sort of brought me around.”

But now their purpose is the same — to honor the lives of people whose fight is over, like James Wosika, Sr.’s son.

“I get angry sometimes,” he said. “I cry everyday.”

An IED killed his son in 2007.

“I think of him as not only a hero but an unselfish human being,” he said.

He said he draws strength from groups like the rifle guard, who play at the funerals of the fallen. They’ve served at more than 62,000 of them.

Monday they will pay honor in D.C.

“This is the first time we’re able to send someone to Arlington so we’re all pretty excited about that,” he said.

Since there are dozens, only a few could go. They arrived to their hotel early Sunday, preparing to make noise for those who cannot speak.

“Every veteran deserves honors and this is my chance to help,” Wosika said.

The had a lottery to figure out who would get to go to D.C.

They will perform at Arlington Monday morning. They will also help lay flags around the cemetery.

For more information about the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Guard, check out their website.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield