For the past two years and seven months, the VFW Post 696 in Owensboro has played taps at 6 p.m.
Rain or shine.
Even in the face of the coronavirus.
By state order, the VFW closed to prevent the virus’ spread, but a few dedicated members gather at 6 p.m. at the post’s war memorial, stand at least 6 feet apart for social distancing and place their hands over their hearts to honor the nation’s fallen heroes.
On Tuesday when temps dipped and winds howled off the river, several sat alone in their vehicles for the one-minute ceremony.
“We do it to show respect to the vets,” Gayle Latham said from the front seat of her car.
She hasn’t missed a night coming to taps since the VFW closed.
Members believe this is the only post in the U.S. that carries on this nightly tradition.
The ceremony takes about a minute.
Brenner stands erect and places the bugle to his lips. After the song ends, he slowly raises his right hand into a precision salute. Then, everyone scuttles.
On Thursday night, a silver SUV stopped in the street at the intersection of Frederica Street and Veterans Boulevard during the ceremony. Brenner said he’s seen kids stop and place their hands over their hearts. People walking through Smothers Park stop and show reverence.
Kelly O’Connor is not a VFW member, but she has attended the ceremony nearly every night for two years. She lives about a half mile away on Plum Street and walks every night with her dogs, Maddie and Nema.
“The first time I came I didn’t know what was going on,” O’Connor said.
She comes in the rain or cold. When veterans fought for us, she said, they didn’t get to choose the weather.
“It’s an opportunity to thank them for their sacrifices,” O’Connor said of attending the service. “It’s the least we can do.”
As VFW members leave the parking lot at the end of the ceremony, she waves and shouts: “Thank you for your sacrifice.”
Kevin Bruton served in the Kentucky National Guard in the early 1980s and is a member of the VFW.
“I come down to support my brothers,” Bruton said.
During the coronavirus, guards still stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Likewise, Owensboro’s VFW post holds this nightly vigil.
It’s one minute in time that means so has touched the hearts of many.
Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, firstname.lastname@example.org