By Wally Wersching
William Franklin (Frank) Earwood 92, of Old Charles Road in Shelby, NC passed away Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at Peak Resources in Cherryville. He was born in Cleveland County, on July 29, 1924. When WWII broke out, he was just a boy but he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp, and served in the South Pacific. After the war, he returned home to live a long fruitful life with many children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He was well thought of by his friends and relatives as a happy man who brought joy to everyone he touched. Frank loved to travel, and had visited every state but Alaska.
The funeral service was held at 4 PM, on Friday, at Stamey-Tysinger Funeral Home Chapel, in Fallston, NC. The entombment followed the service in the Rose Hill Memorial Park Mausoleum, Fallston.
The Patriot Guard Riders were invited to participate in the services for Frank. I received the email notification on Thursday, January 19th. I wanted to be there to honor Frank so I checked the weather for Friday. It was supposed to be rain in the morning, and overcast the rest of the day with temps in the 50’s. I decided to wear warm clothes, and go – rain or shine.
I arrived at the funeral home at about 2:30PM in the afternoon. There were a few other PGR members already there. There was another service going on so we waited until it was over before we staged our bikes on the other side of the home – ready to escort Frank to his final resting place.
Then we placed a few flags in front of the home at the sidewalk to show everyone coming to visit that a veteran was being honored. We initiated the flag line in front of the main door to the chapel at 3PM when the visitation was to start with two PGR members at the door. As we stood there with our flags, we were thanked by many of the people who came to visit.
There was a slow but steady stream of visitors coming to pay their respects to Frank’s relatives. Between the visitors, we had time to talk amongst ourselves. We discussed many topics one of which was where we wanted to be buried when we died. I guess it was an appropriate subject because of the reason we were there. For me, I want to be cremated, and buried in the Veteran’s cemetery in Black Mountain, NC. It’s a beautiful place. Others wanted their ashes scattered. Everyone’s wishes were a little different.
When the service for Frank started, we stood down from the flag line, removed the flags from the front of the home, and waited for the flag covered casket to be loaded into the hearse. When Frank came out of the home, we all saluted until he was placed into the hearse. Then we hurried to our bikes to escort Frank to the Rose Hill Memorial Park Mausoleum – just about a mile down the road from the funeral home.
When we arrived at the cemetery, the honor guard was waiting for Frank. We formed our flag line next to them. We saluted again as Frank was moved into the Mausoleum. We stood in honor as his family and friends went into the building.
From where I was standing, I couldn’t see exactly what was going on inside. I saw the white hats of the honor guard moving around. I know that sometime during the service, the flag that was draped over Frank was solemnly folded into the tight triangle. Then it was presented by a kneeling member of the honor guard to Frank’s wife.
Then, the honor guard fired the three volleys, and played Taps on a trumpet. Whenever I hear Taps, I get a little emotional. The finality of the service sets in - that there is the body of a good man inside the casket – a Marine. I am always moved by the playing of Taps. It brings back memories of all the veterans who never made it home.
The 3-volley salute is a ceremonial act performed at military funerals as part of the drill and ceremony of the Honor Guard. It consists of a rifle party firing blank cartridges into the air three times. It could be any number of riflemen. I have been to funerals where there was only a single rifleman firing the three volleys. The custom originates from the European dynastic wars, where the fighting ceased so the dead and wounded could be removed. Then, three shots were fired into the air to signal that the battle could resume. The three-volley salute should not be confused with the 21-gun salute (or 19-gun or 17-gun, etc.) which uses a battery of artillery pieces.
When the honor guard was picking up their spent brass, we dissolved the flag line. We walked to the van and placed the flags into the flag bag. Then we all walked to our bikes, talked for a brief minute or two, and went home. Although there wasn’t a large group of PGR members, we were there to honor Frank for service to his country. Until we can honor the next passing veteran, we will stand ready.