558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Commander of the Band of Brothers Honor Guard Joe Raber presents the American flag to the family of veteran Leroy Holden.
Honoring their comrades in service for the very last time is a final act of respect from the Band of Brother’s Honor Guard to fallen veterans and their families.
“The families have always been extremely grateful that we’re there, that we took the time to be there with flags to do a service,” commented honor guard commander Joe Raber. “It’s a pleasure to do it — and just seeing the gratitude on people’s faces. When they come up and say thank you — it makes you feel good.”
He reflected on a call they received from a family in Arizona, requesting the Honor Guard to give honors to a deceased veteran.
“The wife told me that as soon as she could, she would get his affairs in order, and that she would be bringing him to Prineville,” said Raber. “This gives you such a lift, knowing the honors that we are trying to give our fellow veterans and the families are so appreciative.”
Mike DeHate, who served more than 21 years in the U.S. Navy, has been in the Honor Guard since its inception. He noted that they recently went to a service in Sisters, Ore., where a sister of the veteran accepted the ceremonial flag.
“There were young kids there, and looking at their eyes, and seeing the impact that we had with the flag procession, and the small presentation that we did with the flags to show respect for the person that passed away — for the young children it’s going to leave a lasting impression,” he reflected.
DeHate added that it is also important that they honor the families, who also made incredible sacrifices.
“The Honor Guard, and the service we provide there, I do it to honor the service and dedication that those individuals put into it, and the sacrifices that their family went through, because we don’t want to omit the families — the wives and the children who gave up part of that of their dad or their mom’s lives while they were serving our country, making it safe for us to be here,” said DeHate passionately. “I think it is something that is necessary for us to be there at their service and show them that we do care, and that their service and family is appreciated for what they did for our country — otherwise we wouldn’t have the freedom today that we have.”
These are just some of the reasons that this tightknit group of veterans remain at the service of their fallen comrades and their families. They are fairly new, and the Band of Brothers Honor Guard already has 26 members. Despite the fact that they have only been together for approximately two years, they have gained attention from other Central Oregon military service groups, who would like to start an honor guard in their community.
Chaplain Norm Smith said it was his dream to have an active honor guard, and he added that each ceremony is unique. They meet with the family and find out what kind of ceremony they would like to have for their family member. There is always a presentation of the flags, and sometimes there might be bagpipe music or a 21-rifle salute. The Honor Guard is currently working on raising money to retrofit their rifles for this part of the ceremony, and to purchase more rifles.
Among the services that the Honor Guard provides the families, bagpipe music is one way that members David Brock and John Pierson give back to their fellow veterans. Their common bond in their love for the music and serving their fellow veterans makes it a very powerful tribute for the families of the veterans.
Pierson formerly commented on his reasons for providing this service, “I had to find a way to give meaning to the guys that I served with who lost who gave their lives in service to their country. For a very long time, I didn’t know how to deal with that. Over the years, I have lost 10 guys that I have served with. I needed to find a way that made sense of their loss and their sacrifice.”
Brock initially got started piping because of his family’s strong Celtic background. He said that he bought a set of pipes 26 years ago when he went to Scotland.
“After my initial exposure with John — we have similar military backgrounds and exposure to training — it just added another dimension and so much more depth in taking up the pipes and what we could do with it from that point forward. We both lost good friends in the military in action — it was just a natural progression of the instrument for me. The opportunity to be able to honor veterans and fallen comrades was a very fulfilling possibility,” pointed out Brock.
When the family requests the presence of the Band of Brothers Honor Guard in a military funeral ceremony, Smith said they always check to make sure the veteran had an honorable discharge. It does not matter what branch or rank they held in the military.
“What I think ties us together as a unit, is we respect those who have marched before us, and those who are marching with us now,” reflected Smith. ‘One Nation under God,’ that is what it’s all about.”
Since January, the Honor Guard has performed at 19 ceremonies locally. They have also performed for some funerals out-of-town.
“I have been a funeral director at a lot of different areas,” said Amanda McLeath, funeral director for Prineville Funeral Home. “There’s no other place that I have been to that does this. It’s really cool the way they treat our veterans who pass away, and their families. It’s a really unique thing that they offer.”
She recalled that many families are touched that the Honor Guard puts in the extra effort to make the service special, in honor of their loved one.
Honor Guard member Jim Taylor, remarked that they are showing their respect to fallen veterans for the last time, when they are present at a funeral. He noted that he served as a part of an honor guard when he was in active duty, and he is thankful that he is able to be a part of it
Raber added, “We are here to serve the veterans. It’s all about the veteran and the family of the deceased. It’s not about us.”
Honor Guard member Lynn Arnett, who moved with his wife to Prineville more than 10 years ago, was surprised by the number of veterans that he encountered throughout the years.
“It’s an honor to serve in the Honor Guard,” he said.
“The country has matured greatly in the last 25 years, in having a better respect for those who have served,” Arnett remarked. “We have taken advantage of that, because a lot of folks who are in the honor guard didn’t come home to a welcome mat. It was a difficult process for a lot of them, so this is our way of saying we’re going to give back, and we’re going to help the families and be there when they need us, and show our respect to those who served.”
He went on to say that the Honor Guard often goes to the Redmond Municipal Airport to greet soldiers who are coming home.
“It’s a lot of fun to go the airport and support the families when the soldier comes home, to be there for them. It surprises them that we’re there, to say, ‘Welcome home.’”
Arnett pointed out that when a family asks what they owe for the services of the Honor Guard, he always replies, “Nothing. You (and your loved one) have already paid the price.”
The Honor Guard also participates in other events in the community, including parades and special occasions upon request. They recently did an opening ceremony for the Rodder Club, and facilitated the Oregon Honorable Service Medal ceremony in February.
The Honor Guard values the camaraderie and fellowship within their members, and the opportunity to help others and give back to the families of their fallen veterans.
“I am so very proud to be in the presence of the fine men of the Honor Guard and the men and women of the Prineville chapter of the Oregon Band of Brothers,” said Raber. “I would like to say that I have never been around a better bunch of gentlemen than the Honor Guard. They have come to the front for so many events over the last year. There are so many great families that have thanked the people in the Honor Guard. When I hear of the kindness and friendship from the people in our community, I can’t wait until the next meeting, so I can share with the members the compliments that we receive from the public. Every face in the meetings crack a little smile and you can see the glow that comes over the men in the Honor Guard.”
The Honor Guard is part of the Band of Brothers, and the membership of the latter has reached 308 members. The Honor Guard is made up of 24 members.
Their mission is promote a positive public image by paying tribute to their fallen comrades. They do this by assisting in the ceremonies and memorials and laying them to rest with honor and dignity. They also honor those servicemen and women returning from deployments. They accomplish this mission by the use of drill and ceremonies, custom and courtesies, and presenting themselves in a neat and professional manner.