URBANA — Many veterans volunteer to give others a proper military burial. Buying their uniforms can be expensive, so they need help to keep things going. Now we’re just one week away from a chance to do just that. Operation Honor Guard is going to happen in several states this year. People in Illinois, Iowa or Michigan can donate in person, but anyone can donate online.
You’ve probably driven past the National Guard Armory before on University Avenue. But veterans say they wish more people knew what was inside. One thing is Robbie Walker’s office. He’s an Army veteran.
“It was eye opening to see war up front, up close,” said Walker.
He joined the service to pay for his education.
“I wanted to do it on my own instead of asking family members for their support, so I did it the hard way, but there were a lot of benefits that came as a result of it,” said Walker.
One of those benefits ended up being his job. He’s a veteran service officer for the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs. Now he’s also an honor guard member.
“Our post, Post 559, is about 81 years old and it the roots were all African American but we have all genders and ethnic groups now,” said Walker.
He’s proud to still be serving, even now that he’s home. Walker says he understands the honor guard’s needs and he knows the families appreciate their service.
“When you lay someone to rest who’s served, you want the best and you want them to look good because it’s the final resting place so it takes practice,” said Walker. “It takes commitment because nobody’s paid for. They just do it because of the love of it.”
They do more than just funerals. Honor guard members were also at the armory earlier this year, when Tuskegee Airmen were honored with new highway signs. Walker says they want to make sure they’re dressed with respect.
“You don’t want to be out there un-unified,” said Walker. “You want to show unity and everybody be dressed the same with the proper gear.”
That’s just one more reason why they’re reaching out to the community to help them serve with pride.
Walker says he mostly helps schedule events for his honor guard. His wife also served in the military.
Operation Honor Guard is on Tuesday, October 11. We’ll be out from 6 am to 7 pm at several different locations. That includes the WCIA 3 back parking lot in Champaign, Danville’s Center for Loss and Healing, the Sunset Urbas Chapel in Westville and at Diepholz Auto in Charleston and Paris. We hope you join us!