Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad to be presidential guests at - KMSP-TV

Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad to be presidential guests at Arlington

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad was the first of its kind in the nation comprised of all volunteers and performing honors at every single burial at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, which is hitting its 35th anniversary. That’s why 11 members from the squad became presidential guests at Arlington National Cemetery.

“My father was one of the original founders,” Mike Pluta said. “It's remarkable, it really is. It's come a long way. I'm sure he's a happy man.”

Pluta knows his dad would be proud that the rifle squad he helped form in 1979 with five other vets was still going strong. He’d also be proud the squad was invited to Washington, D.C. by President Obama to mark its 35th year as guests at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Among the wreaths resting at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one rests in Fort Snelling’s honor.

“It's a spectacular honor, and especially for the original founder, George. He's alive and doing well and I'm sure he's enjoying the moment,” Pluta said.

Back at home, at Fort Snelling, it left a smaller crew to do the Memorial Day honors.

More than 100 volunteers are busy today with other Memorial Day events while 11 of the most active are off in D.C.

Andy Urness has been in the squad 22 years – a squad that performs honors at as many as 15 burials a day year round for now more than 65,000 vets. Urness has never missed a burial for weather in 35 years.

“Like a couple weeks ago when it rained all day, I was out there for that. You get a good feeling, just a good feeling when you do something like that,” he said.

It’s a legacy that’s built to last. Originally, the squad hoped to take part in ceremonies in Arlington, but they were plenty honored just to be there.

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