MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For 41 years, they have shown up to say a final goodbye to their fallen comrades. Family and friends are remembering the founding member of the Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling.
George Weiss died this week at home surrounded by his family. He was 92. But, his dedication to service will live on.
“Of the original six members of the rifle squad I was the youngest and I’m the last survivor,” Weiss told WCCO Photojournalist Tom Aviles in 2001.
Aviles followed the The Friday Squad for nearly a year, documenting how they made sure military veterans have the final honors they deserve.
“We are the oldest rifle squad. We started on June 19th 1979 we had two funeras,” Weiss said back then.
His daughters Gail Weiss and Mary Erickson says it’s been amazing to watch how it’s grown.
“As of Monday it was 80,042 funerals they have done,” Erickson said.
“Up until COVID they never missed a single one,” Gail Weiss said.
Their father started the started the squad when his daughters were just kids. A St. Paul native, Weiss served as a Marine in WWII. He joined the Ford assembly line, where he worked for nearly 30 years. When he retired at the age of 50, he looked for a new meaning in life.
“That was their age that was their generation. They took that service to heart. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it would follow him like it has,” Erickson said. “It takes a special person 90 degrees or 30 below. Made no difference rain, sun. They did their duty.”
George Weiss was recognized for that duty a decade ago in Washington D.C. with the Citizens’ Medal.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad more proud than I did that day,” Erickson said.
As he aged, it became more difficult to join his team on Friday.
“As we get older the winters seem to get colder, darker and longer,” he told us in 2016.
“As each day progressed, he progressed. It got to the point that we knew the end was going to be near,” Erickson said.
His family says he’d found peace by then with what he leaves behind. A legacy predicted back then.
“How do I hope to be remembered? Well I just found out I’m going to be a great grandpa. I hope my great grandson will come out here and say my great grandpa got this going right here on the Friday squad,” he said in 2011.
“He was still a marine to the end,” Erickson added.
His family hopes to have a funeral service on June 19 at Ft. Snelling.
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