Bethel Park Council recognizes South Hills Veterans Honor Guard

Published Jul 15, 2014 at 11:16 am (Updated Jul 15, 2014 at 11:16 am)

The July meeting of Bethel Park Council was a celebration of the nation’s birthday and patriotism as members of the South Hills Veterans Honor Guard were recognized and the flags flying at the veterans memorial in front of the municipal building were celebrated.

Mayor Jack Allen recognized the members of the honor guard for the duties they preform at the funerals of area veterans as well as at other commemorations.

Bill Babcock, coordinator and Chaplin of the unit, said the group has officiated honors at over 3,000 funerals since its inception in 2000.

The group was formed after members of veterans organizations noticed that the ceremonies honoring deceased service members were lacking, he explained.

“It was often just two uniformed service members with a boom box,” said Babcock. “I said, ‘this can be done better.’”

The all-volunteer unit, with veterans representing various branches of the military, are members of American Legion Post 760 in Bethel Park and Post 6664 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in South Park Township. There are currently 23 members, one of whom is a woman.

The honor guard was given a state grant of $20,000 to purchase uniforms, and the rifles used in the ceremony were provided by the Department of Defense.

During a funeral service, members of the guard fire three volleys of blanks from seven rifles, they also play taps and present the folded flag to the bereaved family members.

The honor guard not only participates in funeral services, but also at other ceremonies honoring veterans, such as Memorial Day parades and events such as the dedication of the Pittsburgh WWII Veterans Memorial

In other business, Councilman Mark O’Brien discussed the flags, which fly at the veterans memorial.

There are flags representing each branch of the military, and during the birthday month of the various branches of service that service’s flag is featured.

For July, municipal officials decided to recognize the birth of the nation by displaying different flags from the country’s history, O’Brien explained.

The memorial is featuring 11 flags this month and council members took turns reading a piece of history about each of the flags.

Among the flags flying in July are a replica of the rattlesnake “don’t tread on me” flag from the Continental Navy, a replica of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner,” a replica of the flag used by Union troops during the Civil War, a replica of the Betsy Ross Flag and a replica of the flag used by local rebels during the Whisky Rebellion.

“I invite all Bethel Park residents to come down and see the flags this month,” O’Brien said.

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