RITTMAN, Ohio — The Western Reserve National Cemetery near Rittman is the final resting place for hundreds of America’s bravest veterans.
It is also a place where there is a priority on providing a dignified final valediction for departed service members and their surviving families.
For thirteen years, Chuck Dudley has been there paying final respects, as a part of the 555th honors detachment, known as the ‘Triple Nickle’
“I’ve got 22 years in the military service. My first six was Navy, and I went in the Coast Guard shortly thereafter and did 16 with the Coast Guard and enjoyed every minute of it,” said Dudley.
The ‘Triple Nickle was created in 2000 as an honors detachment specifically for services at the National Cemetery.
Since he first joined, Dudley estimates he has participated in as many as 3,000 ceremonies, treating each of them with the same dignity as any other.
“The most we have ever done in one week was 53 It doesn’t matter if it’s only two or sixteen or eighteen a day we will be here to do them all,” said Dudley. “We as a veteran’s group, we are here because we respect our brothers and sisters and we want to give them that honor that they have earned.”
The ‘Triple Nickle’ is made up of veterans from every branch of the military.
Dudley says among the only requirements are that you must have proof that you served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“We do it, the guys on the Triple Nickle and the other organizations, they come out here without any problems coming out to do this rain, snow it doesn’t matter, they are here to do the honors for our brothers and sisters,” said Dudley.
And there are times when the members of the ‘Triple Nickle’ are the only ones there to pay respect.
Among their role is to play taps and to fire off volleys of gunfire in a 21-gun salute.
Dudley says the 555th honors detachment has 25 full time members, but as they get older, they need additional members to continue to carry out their mission.
They are always looking for new members, regardless of their branch of service.
“We often say we have got one time to get this right in this profession so when we can have a professional organization like the Triple Nickle come out and perform the way they do we know we got it right that one time,” said Jesse Getz, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the director of the Western Reserve National Cemetery.
“These men and women come out here, sacrifice their day that they worked hard to get to this point in life, they come out and they come and serve our veterans and their families,” said Getz.
“We have fulfilled their wishes, the family’s wish come first always, and if we are able to fulfill that need to help them with closure, we have done our job,” said Dudley. “They served honorably; they gave the government a blank check, we are fulfilling that blank check by giving them this honor that they earned.”