MARION (WSIL) — Operation Honor Guard’s Day of Giving raised more than $19,000 Wednesday to provide military funerals for fallen veterans. More than 150 Honor Guard members and volunteers stood at the intersection in front of Black Diamond Harley Davidson in Marion with large blue buckets to collect those donations.
"It’s a very big deal," said Joe Krelo, Honor Guard member at Post 177 in Zeigler. "It gets us our clothing, helps the people out there with their shirts, and ties, and hats, to look uniform. Makes us look more presentable for the funerals."
The money raised goes toward uniforms and other expenses for Honor Guard members who serve at military funerals. It costs about $800 to completely outfit each Honor Guard member, with about a dozen members at each military funeral.
"It’s all volunteers, volunteers from every post in the area," said Krelo. "We go miles and miles every year to go to different cemeteries. So, it means quite a bit to have some clothing money, some gas money."
"We average about a funeral a week, so somewhere around 50 a year," added John Mileur, an Honor Guard member with Murphsyboro Post 127.
Betty Hartley, with Post 169 in Eldorado, knows first hand what it means to have her loved one buried with military honors. Her husband, who served in the U.S. Army, died nine years ago.
"It meant a lot to me with my kids being there," said Hartley. "It just lifted my daughter up. And they gave her the gunshots from the volley."
In addition to the individual donations, Day of Giving sponsors handed over a check for $8,000 dollars. They included Black Diamond Harley Davidson, First Southern Bank, Anderson’s Warehouse Furniture, Golden Eagle Distributing and WSIL-TV.
"It’s just unbelievable that the people can contribute this much money to help us to serve our veterans," said Krelo. "It helps the families. We have so many people after a funeral come up and just keep saying ‘thank you’ and ‘thank you’ and we’re just glad that we could be there. And this helps."
The final tally from Day of Giving donations is still being added up. You can still donate online here.