Youth football game paused for WWII veteran’s funeral

MASONTOWN — Respect and honor are synonyms. Either can be used to show regard for someone.

Jim Savage, president of Preston County Vietnam Veterans of America, and member of the Preston County Honor Guard, said he saw a show of honor and respect Aug. 19.

Savage was at the Masontown Cemetery that day for the funeral of 91-year-old World War II veteran John Henry “Jiggs” Garner. The West Preston Youth Football League was playing Tucker County in the field next to the cemetery. The children participating in the game were pre-K through sixth grade.

“His (Mr. Garner’s) plot was right at the entrance, next to the ball field,” Savage said. “A lady came over and talked to us to find out what we had planned.”

“I was contacted by Mr. Garner’s granddaughter, and she told me about the funeral,” said Samantha Stone, who was with the league. “We wanted to pay our respects to Mr. Garner and his family.”

Garner’s daughter, Linda Hanlin, said what the people and children did at the game was nice and showed respect. She added that the family appreciated the gesture.

His granddaughter, Jennifer Born, said she works in the school system and children have lost their respect for their elders. She said this was a great way to instill respect in the children. “A military funeral teaches so much to the young ones. A lot of children have never seen one. For those young ones to take a knee and be silent that long was amazing,” she said.

Born, said her grandfather was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., and served in Japan during the war.

Savage said an announcement was made at the game when the funeral started.

“All four teams, the audience and players stood at attention and faced the flag until the ceremony was over,” Savage said. “Some stood at attention and some had their hands over their hearts. There must have been 300 people, but there wasn’t a single sound during the ceremony.”

He said he had never seen such a sign of respect.

“Preston County can be commended and proud of all the people attending and the kids participating in that game. For the game to come to a complete halt shows a lot of respect for an elderly veteran,” Savage said. “I participated in 90 ceremonies last year, and I’m well into 50 this year. I’ve never seen the show of respect I saw from those people at this funeral.”

The honor guard renders military funerals for eligible veterans free of charge. Savage said the ceremony consists of a 21-gun salute, a speaker, a chaplain saying a prayer and a bagpiper who plays Taps.

He said the Honor Guard is looking for new members. “We have two members who are in their 90s the others are in their 70s and 80s. I hope there will be people here to perform the ceremony for me.”

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