Military Organization Honors Veterans at 4th of July Event

Published 3:25 pm Sunday, July 10, 2022

With baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet being the hallmarks of summer in many circles, it can be easy to forget about the sacrifices made for freedom.

At last Sunday’s 4th of July festivities at Lykins park, a group of veterans and non-veterans that make up the Rolling Thunder group made sure to honor and remember those who made the sacrifices with a “Retiring the Colors” ceremony.

The ceremony was performed in association with Patriot Guard Riders, an organization dedicated to attending the funerals of U.S. members. The group’s Kentucky branch includes approximately 1,000 members.

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“When the Patriot Guard [Riders] get called by a funeral home to lay a hero to rest, we’re there,” said John Babcock, ride co-captain and U.S. Army veteran. “If we get a heads-up about somebody whose been missing in action in World War II or Korea and they’re getting escorted to their home for a final resting place, we line the bridges and take them all the way home.”

It was not the group’s first time in Winchester, as they were also present in June 2020 despite Covid-19 to honor Harold G. Epperson – a marine posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II who is buried at Winchester Cemetery.

The “Retiring the Colors” ceremony comes from a command at the end of a service or event that directs the color guard to retrieve the national and unit colors and remove them.

Several representatives work together to ensure the flag is respectfully removed in a smooth motion – similar to what occurs at a funeral ceremony for a deceased veteran.

“When the sun goes down, from 30 yards, if you can not see the stars and the union field, that flag must be taken down and retired for the day or night to fly again at another time,” Babcock said.

Among other locals were U.S. Army veteran Donald Wooten and Bobby Bailey, a former member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

With the ceremony complete and more to come, Babcock advised those of different generations to recall the relevance and meaning behind July 4th.

“Never, ever, ever forget what the 4th of July is,” he said. “[The] 4th of July is freedom, and so many men [and] women gave their lives to be able to do the 4th of July.”