Bell of Honor does what it says: it honors
The Biker's Diary
Monday, November 05, 2012 9:21 AM
Veterans Day doesn't really seem to garner a lot of attention outside of local American Legion and VFW celebrations. There is very little about it in the news media, we don't get off work or school, and businesses don't close. I think it's safe to say that except for the inconvenience of no mail delivery or pickup, most people don't even notice. And that's a sad commentary, given the sacrifices that every veteran has made to keep us both safe and free.
In July I was privileged to witness, and write about in the Republican-Leader the efforts of a group who has made it their mission in life to show appreciation to our veterans - all year long. These are the people who voluntarily run the upper Midwest Bell of Honor program, headquartered in Rochester but "have trailer, will travel."
Terry Throndson, who was soon joined by his brother Jan, had heard about a man in Texas who had acquired a huge brass bell - somewhat like the Liberty Bell - and hauls it all over the south and southeast. The Bell is in parades, at celebrations such as Fourth of July and other festivals, and is tolled at the funerals of veterans.
The Throndson brothers got hooked on the idea and went on an extensive search for a suitable bell. After acquiring one, they had the challenge of getting a trailer to haul it around. Due to the massive weight of the bell, the trailer had to be outfitted in order to efficiently get the bell in and out. The result is impressive; there is literally a place for everything they need, and when they're ready to roll, everything is in its place.
Of course a long trailer properly configured to hold everything safely and still be accessible, plus a vehicle to pull it, is a fairly large investment. So it soon became a family affair: the Throndsons' sisters and spouses soon joined in the effort, and the four siblings also pooled money they had inherited from their late parents to get their project up and running. Then they were joined by friends who not only help with the work but also help in the necessary ongoing fundraising: even though they now have the bell, a well-equipped trailer, and the small bus to pull it, gasoline is expensive!
According to the group's brochure, the Bell of Honor will be tolled at funerals "or during special occasions worthy of the honor." On those occasions, the bell tolls seven times; "The first six tolls are to honor those who have Responded, Served, Protected, Defended, Sacrificed, Suffered. The seventh toll signifies the Loss of Life." It is "The Voice of a Grateful Nation."
What I wrote in July bears repeating this Veteran's Day: "Everything about the Bell of Honor is designed to show respect: the truck and trailer are clean, shiny and even on dry and dusty roads, spotless. In fact, the trailer becomes part of the display: a mural is painted on the side which faces the gravesite; the opposite side is the same mural but looking at the scene from behind.
"Everything in the mural has meaning. There are two Army personnel in Gilley chemical suits, representing Iraq. There is a group of airplanes flying in "missing man" formation. All branches of the services (with the exception of Merchant Marines), including female members, are represented. There is a Humvee representing Afghanistan.
"The mural also includes an Honor Guard shooting a 21-gun-volley for a lost soldier, and a Marine kneeling, remembering a fallen comrade. There are two sailors saluting, which Terry Throndson said represent his father who served in World War II, and himself who was in Vietnam from 1971 to 1975.
"Throndson said that the volunteers represent a broad variety of people, including a pastor, a Gold Star family and many who are not veterans but believe in the mission of demonstrating 'a grateful nation.' There is no schedule for the volunteers; 'anyone who can show up for an event does.'
"This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington. The Bell of Honor has been invited to participate in that event in Washington, D.C., from Nov. 7-11. It will toll on Nov. 10 at approximately midnight, as the last name on The Wall is read; that reading will start at 4 p.m. on Nov. 7; it will take 65 hours and over 1000 volunteers to read the 58,272 names.
"Donations are needed to help cover the cost of transporting the Bell of Honor to Washington in November. The Bell of Honor is an IRS approved 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible. All money that is donated is used for the Bell of Honor's mission.
"Anyone wishing to make a donation, and families interested in having the Bell of Honor at a graveside service, or for appearances at other events, should either visit its website, www.thebellofhonor.org, or contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made online or by mail to Bell of Honor, P O Box 7084, Rochester MN 55903."
This Veteran's Day, few of us, if any, will hear the Bell of Honor toll for our veterans. Or get to see the impressive sight of the trailer with its mural and the message it sends to our veterans. But we can do something: don't wait for our veterans to die before we show our appreciation, over and over again! Then when it is time to say goodbye, get the Bell of Honor there for one last show of respect.