On most any Tuesday, between 8 and 9 a.m. at A-Town Diner in the City of Atascadero, you will find a group of Marine veterans gathered around the round table in the middle of the dining area. They may just look like a group of senior citizens, talking about their grandkids, the cost of living and casually solving local and national problems over a cup of coffee.

They have been going to the same cafe so long, they don’t need a menu, they just tell the waitress “I will have the usual,” this is good because most of them can’t remember what the usual was. So it’s like being back in the military again, eat what you’re served as long as the coffee keeps coming.

In 1999, the federal government asked for assistance in honoring veteran funerals, and at the San Luis Obispo Old Mission Church some of the veterans that meet each week at the A-Town Diner rendered their first Military Funeral Honors Ceremony for a fellow veteran. Because of the continued request from local families, the Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard a non-profit organization was created.

All of these local veterans, besides proudly serving our country during WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and later, continue to serve their country and their fellow veterans, by rendering Full Military Funeral Honors Ceremonies at veterans funeral.

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Three Rifle Volley Salute

This is the oldest of the customs of a Military Funeral Honors Ceremonies. The custom was originated for American soldiers during the Revolutionary War when each Army would stop the fighting so that the wounded and dead could be cared for or buried. Once the dead had been buried, each side would fire a three-rifle volley salute over their graves. This let the other side know that they were ready to resume the fighting. Following the Civil War, the custom of firing a Three Rifle Volley Salute at active duty military funerals was extended to veterans that had honorably served their country.

Playing of Taps

“Taps” is an American Bugle Call, composed by the Union General Daniel Butterfield while camped at Harrison’s Landing Virginia in 1862. “Taps” replaced the earlier bugle call “Tattoo” that was thought to be too formal. The new bugle call became known as “Taps” because it could be tapped out on a drum in the absence of a bugler.

Within a year, both the North and the South Army’s were playing “Taps” at the burial of their soldiers. In 1864, “Taps” was adopted by the Army as the officially bugle call to be played at Military funerals and at day’s end on military bases to signal “lights out.”

Holding the Flag for Taps

At the funeral of a veteran when “Taps” is played, the flag that has covered the casket will be raised and held open. All military members at the funeral (except the bugler and military personnel holding the flag) will render a hand salute until the playing of “Taps” is completed. This is also done at memorial services where there is no casket.

The Folding of the Burial Flag

The Flag will be folded into a triangular shape with only the blue field with stars showing. The shape of the flag when completely folded takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, reminding us of the hats worn by the soldiers, sailors and marines that served under General George Washington and Captain John Paul Jones during the Revolutionary War. These men fought to preserve for us the rights, privileges and freedoms that we all enjoy today.

Care by all members of the Folding Detail is of the utmost importance to make sure the burial flag is correctly folded, because this will be the last time that this flag will ever be folded.

Shape of the Folded Flag

This triangular shape has always been the traditional way that burial flags for U.S. military personnel have been folded.

Presenting the Flag

The flag is then presented to the next of kin, or other appropriate family member as a keepsake, using the words “Please accept this flag from a grateful nation, the President of the United States, and Secretary of [Branch of Service for the veteran] for your loved one’s service to the United States of America. After the burial flag has been presented at a veteran’s funeral or memorial it should never be opened or flown again or displayed in any way other than in the triangular shape in which it was presented to the family of the veteran.

Collection of Three Spent Casings

One of Rifle Firing Detail members will collect three spent casings following the Rifle Volley Salute. These casings will be placed in a small black bag and given to the next of kin. With the following wording “Keep these pieces of brass, together with our Nations Flag. As you remember and memorialize your loved one finial military formation and their service to our country. They stand for Honor, Courage & Commitment, the three main character traits embodied in every true American patriot.”

Playing Military Branch Song

At the conclusion of the Military Honor Ceremony the musicians will play the Song of the Veterans Branch of Military service.

Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard

The Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard organization is looking for a few proud Marines to continue its mission of rendering Full Military Funeral Honors for the deserving veterans of the San Luis Obispo area.

For more info regarding the Central Coast Leatherneck Honor Guard, go to leatherneckhonorguard.org, or stop by the A-Town Diner on any Tuesday between 8 and 9 a.m.

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