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Carrying much more than rifles and flags

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Knightstown Officer Jeffrey Van Hoy, center, is the newest member of the Henry County Honor Guard. In this photo, he’s greeted by (l-r) Jay Davis and Adrian Darling of the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Justin Wardlow of the New Castle Police Department and Sheriff Ric McCorkle, far right.
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Here’s a photo of the Honor Guard in action during a Mooreland Free Fair Parade. The Honor Guard performs many functions throughout the year, both in and outside of Henry County.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

For more than a decade, a group of flag-carrying, parade-marching Henry County law enforcement officers have been there. In the best of times, and the very worst.

Recently, this behind-the-scenes group known as the Honor Guard provided their solemn, poignant skills for one of their own at the funeral of the late Tom Nelson, who was Knightstown’s Police Chief for many years. It seemed fitting that Nelson’s position on the honor guard be filled by another Knightstown officer, Jeffrey Van Hoy.

“I knew Tom,” Van Hoy said. “I’m thankful that I was asked to do it. It’s an honor.”

Van Hoy joins an unheralded, yet spirit-raising and comforting group that has been in existence for more than a decade, marching in local parades, firing 21-gun salutes at funerals for veterans and even going across county or state lines to help honor officers killed in the line of duty.

Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle says the group is special in many ways.

“This is volunteer,” he said. “For these officers to take the time they do to train, the commitment they have and the reverence they show, it’s impressive. We’re very proud of them and proud of what they do.”

One of the best aspects of the Honor Guard is it’s multi-agency representation, according to Knightstown Police Chief Chris Newkirk.

“All three agencies currently involved – the New Castle and Knightstown police departments and the Henry County Sheriff’s Department – are working together as one,” Newkirk said.

“We do it because we love it,” said Bill Palmer, commander of the Honor Guard who has also served with the Henry County 911 Emergency Chaplains. “We do it because we love our brothers and sisters in law enforcement. We’re all one.”

The Honor Guard is seen in many Henry County places throughout the course of any given year, particularly parades in the area. But where they aren’t seen by the local community is sometimes where their efforts mean the most.

“We go to support families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty,” Officer Adrian Darling, co-team leader of the honor guard, said. “Once a year, we travel to Louisville, Ky. and take part in the supporting heroes and heroines gala, for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Family members are very appreciative of what we do.”

Often, one of the group’s duties is folding an American flag and presenting it to a family member of a fallen or deceased officer.

“It’s our way of honoring officers who have fallen and paying respects to family members of those officers,” McCorkle said. “I take great pride in that this is a working team, not only with the honor guard but with the police departments and the sheriff’s department. If they need us, we’re there. If we need them, they’re here. We cover and take care of each other. We’re very proud of that and grateful for that.”

There are nine active members on the Honor Guard currently. In addition to Palmer, Van Hoy and Darling, other members include Sheriff’s Major Jay Davis, Assistant New Castle Chief Justin Wardlow, deputies Adam Bradley, Robert Blake, Jay Settergren and Carlos Moore along with Knightstown reserve deputy Jeremy Brown. 

For Van Hoy, the newest member of the group who played first base for the Knightstown Panthers when he was in high school, one particular event may prove to be near and dear to his heart.

“The reward we try to give them for their hard work is actually going to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game and presenting the colors on the field,” Davis said. “That’s something former Sheriff Butch Baker and current Sheriff Ric McCorkle have continued over the years.”