Bob Buchert already has one Patriot Award.
In truth, he really only has a fraction of a Patriot Award.
Back in 2003, Bob had to share with several others the plaque given each year to a local person or group recognized for their work on behalf of veterans.
In that particular case, the group Bob shared the honor with was the Bartholomew County Color Guard, a collection of veterans who perform military rites at local events and funerals for fellow veterans.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Honoring Veterans Banquet
WHEN: Nov. 3; social hour begins at 5 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. followed by the program
WHERE: Hilton Garden Inn, Taylorsville
ADMISSION: $30 a person
RECOGNITIONS: The annual Patriot Award will be given to Bob Buchert, commander of the Bartholomew County Color Guard.
FEATURED SPEAKER: Bartholomew County Historian Harry McCawley, a member of the Memorial for Veterans committee.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations can be made by sending a check made out to Honoring Veterans Committee to Box 2171, Columbus, IN 47202. There are no tickets issued for the program. Simply provide your name when checking in at the welcoming table the night of the event.
The Color Guard was cited almost a decade ago at the third annual Honoring Veterans Banquet for steadfast service to their comrades, living and dead.
Ironically, given the advancing ages of the Color Guard members, some of those services were for fellow members.
Although they’d welcome them, the Color Guard is lacking in young people.
When they talk about the “kids” of the group, they’re likely referring to Vietnam era veterans.
Bob Buchert is not one of the kids.
He is 94 years old.
You can tell it somewhat in his physical appearance.
You’d never know if you look at what he still does.
Two years ago, he participated in funeral ceremonies for 113 veterans. Last year, he was on hand for 94 more. So far this year, he’s commanded the unit for more than 70 final salutes.
That’s deserving of a Patriot Award all his own.
He’ll get it Nov. 3 during the 12th annual Honoring Veterans banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn near Taylorsville.
“All I can think of in terms of a description for Bob is that he’s outstanding,” said Gordon Lake, one of the organizers of the event. “To be faithfully paying tribute to his comrades in such a way at the age of 94 is simply remarkable. And when you consider that he does it regardless of the weather, well, it verges on the unbelievable.”
The members of the Color Guard perform their duties with such frequency — due in large part to the accelerating death rate of World War II veterans — that their service often is taken for granted.
They might not have the precision or sharpness of an active duty honor guard, and there are occasions when their final rifle salutes are not exactly in sync.
On the other hand, they’re dependable and can be counted on to make sure the family and friends of a deceased veteran know that their loved one has not been forgotten.
It means a lot. Last year, in a story in The Republic, one family member of a deceased veteran put it this way:
“It’s one way of recognizing and respecting what these people did. When you’re in the military, at any time you can be sent to lose your life. Anybody who does that voluntarily is somebody pretty special, and the military graveside rites are just a very honorable thing.”
Bob has been part of these final salutes for about 16 years. Gordon Lake wasn’t talking through his hat when he described the devotion Bob and the other members of the Color Guard have to fulfilling their duties.
Bob has stood sentinel at ceremonies conducted in pouring rain, sweltering heat and bitter cold.
He’s a veteran himself, having served in the South Pacific during World War II in an airborne division. In 1945, he was stationed in Okinawa, waiting with the other members of his unit for orders that would put them among the forces that would be invading Japan.
They were spared that bloody spectacle by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Although he shows no signs of slowing down, Bob is realistic about his future. He’s already making plans for his own funeral. It will be up to someone else to command the color guard on that day.
Until then, though, Bob still is the man in charge.