KIMBALL, Tenn. — When high winds severely damaged the old National Guard Armory in South Pittsburg, Tenn., several months ago, the Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard was forced from its home base.
The honor guard is a group of military veterans that pays tribute to deceased service members at funerals in five counties from Dunlap, Tenn., to Scottsboro, Ala.
Kimball set up the group at its 911 office and a police storage room next to City Hall temporarily.
The group asked the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen if they could remain at that location long term, and recently the board voted unanimously to grant the guard a five-year agreement to use the city's facilities at no charge with a five-year renewal option after that.
Chris Reyes, president of the honor guard, said he appreciated what Kimball has done for a group that exists solely on donations.
"I know what [the board] has done for this honor guard, each and every one of them," he said. "They have gone far and beyond with the help they've given to us."
Reyes said he needs to consult with the entire group for approval, but believes they all want to stay in Kimball, too.
The group can always use "a little more space" as it recruits more members, he said.
Vice Mayor Rex Pesnell said if the honor guard needs any more room in Kimball, city officials will find it for them.
The honor guard has been in operation for four years, and during that time has performed at about 500 funerals.
Reyes said the honor guard worked more than 90 veterans' funerals last year.
"It looks like we're going to go over 100 this year," he said. "That's a lot, but we cover a lot of territory."
Alderman Mark Payne said the group performed a service for a member of his family in recent weeks.
"I don't ever remember crying at a funeral or a service until that man placed a medal around my neck," he said. "These guys walk tall, and they're awesome."
The honor guard has had to turn down some services because the group is so swamped with requests, Reyes said.
"We just need more manpower," he said. "We are maxed out right now, and I hate it because I'm a believer in the cause. I believe in putting that veteran man or woman in the ground the way they deserve."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlew firstname.lastname@example.org.