Fort Bragg Honor Guard pays tribute to man who served many

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Lee Ann Sides Garrett
The sounds of gunfire filled the air at Salisbury’s National Cemetery in a salute to honor the life of retired Lt. Col. William Lamont Abbott, 93.
Military funerals are standard at the cemetery behind the William (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center. The 63.5- acre cemetery is a resting place for more than 22,500 veterans and their spouses. However, Abbott’s funeral was a little different. Instead of the Rowan County Honor Guard performing the funeral, an 11-man honor guard from Ft. Bragg was dispatched to assist in Abbott’s burial.
Because Abbott was a military retiree, he was entitled to a military service performed by his branch of service. Abbott retired from the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps in 1961 after 21 years. He served on the honor guard in Madison, Wisc., and helped honor other veterans at their funerals. After his wife’s death, Abbott moved to Salisbury in the spring of 2003 and joined the Rowan County Honor Guard, often giving commands to the guard members firing the three rifle volleys and occasionally reading the eulogy. According to Arlington National Cemetery’s Web site, the three volleys come from an old battlefield custom. The two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the battlefield, and the firing of three volleys meant the dead had been properly cared for and the side was ready to resume the battle.
Many members of the Rowan guard attended Abbott’s funeral to honor their fallen comrade.
“They told us how much they thought of him,” said Jasper Jones, Abbott’s son-in-law. “That spoke volumes to me.”
Frank Wells, equipment engineering operator for the National Cemetery in Salisbury, said the cemetery gets about 15 to 20 burials each week.
“We’ve had four or five a day for the last couple weeks,” said Wells, a retired Army staff sergeant.
Having an active duty honor guard, such as the one from Ft. Bragg, happens about twice a week, Wells said. A veteran qualifies for such a guard or full military honors if they are retired, disabled or killed in action. All others honorably discharged receive their honors from the Rowan County Honor Guard. That guard is made up of local veterans.