MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For 41 years, the veteran volunteers of the Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad have never missed a funeral — until now.
In a Letter to the Editor for the American Legion Monthly Newsletter, squad member Bernie Baumann wrote that the rifle squad was hit with a “gut punch” on Wednesday, March 18.
The squad was ordered to stop operations at the end of their last funeral due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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“We felt angry, in disbelief, and that we were letting our fallen heroes down because we wouldn’t be allowed to provide Honors for our fellow Veterans being laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery,” Baumann wrote.
Since 1979, the volunteer rifle squad at Ft. Snelling Cemetery has provided military funeral honors for those who served. The ceremonies include presentation of the flag, three rifle volleys, and folding and presentation of the American Flag to surviving family members.
“God willing, we’ll all be back as soon as we are allowed,” Baumann wrote.
The average age of the volunteers is 75 years old.
WCCO-TV has reported on the rifle squad several in the past, including when they reached their 75,000th salute in 2018, and when the squad provided a service during historic cold — minus-20-degree weather — in January 2019.