DANVILLE — Russell Jones doesn't consider himself a hero.
After all, the World War II veteran who served in the Army's Battery B 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, says he never actually faced down a German soldier during his time in combat, starting in February 1944 at Anzio, Italy, and ending the following year in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Call it a fluke. Once Jones parachuted into enemy territory late because they couldn't get supplies fast enough out of the plane. Besides, in artillery gunmen generally fire where they're told to by observers.
"We didn't see what we were shooting at," said Jones, whose worst injuries from the war were a scratched finger and infected tooth.
There are plenty, however, who are thankful for Jones' service. Not just in war, but its aftermath.
For years Jones has served on American Legion Post 118's honor guard. It's comprised of Legion members who provide a proper military salutation at veteran funerals and perform such acts as placing American flags on veterans' gravesites.
"We don't do this for any attention," said David Dooley, a service officer with Post 118 and member of the honor guard. "We believe every veteran deserves a final sendoff."
At 89, Jones is one of the honor guard's oldest members. He estimates he's been participating at least 10 years.
"You're thanking your fellow soldiers in a way," said Jones. "I think it's a duty. I'm going to do it as long as I can."
They've been busy. More and more Jones is saying goodbye to his fellow World War II veterans. The honor guard has served at as many as three funerals in a day before.
"That's tough when you have weather like this," said Jones. "We had one guy who almost passed out."
Typically at a military funeral the honor guard will take an American flag draped over the casket, fold it, and give it to a relative of the deceased. A chaplain says a prayer and a gun salute and Taps are performed. Something as simple as providing a vinyl case for the flag also is provided.
"It doesn't sound like much, but it's often overwhelming for the family," said Dooley.
Added Post 118 Commander Steve Gilbreath, "They really appreciate it, which makes it all worthwhile. It's not uncommon for us to get a handshake and a thank-you note."
The post furnishes every honor guard member with a hat, shirt, military-style trench coat, and jacket - an effort to provide the group with a consistent, professional look.
"We get kudos from the veterans who know how it's done," said Dooley.
Memorial Day Weekend also is an important time for the honor guard. Every year they visit as many cemeteries in Hendricks County as they can and place flags on veterans' gravesites. This year they convened at the post at 5 a.m. for breakfast before heading out to visit 13 cemeteries in one day.
"There's no time wasted," said Gilbreath. The honor guard does this throughout the year and also replaces stolen flags.
They currently have 18 active members. More are needed, especially younger ones. You don't have to be a military vet to participate either. Call Post 118 at 745-4736 for more information.
"If they served (their country), they deserve to be recognized," said Gilbreath of the veterans they honor. "It's as simple as that."