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Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad is looking for a few good men and women

The group's recruiting officer says it's down about 10 members, mostly due to age and illness.

FORT SNELLING, Minn. — Rain or shine, you can count on the Memorial Rifle Squad (MRS), which was founded in 1979, to perform at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

It performs honors five days a week, including a rifle volley, "Taps" and the folding and presentation of the flag to a family survivor. 

The group that performs each day includes up to 20 volunteers who can rotate duties from driving the squad bus to being a squad leader.

"It gets engrained in you, it’s a part of you and it’s very important to all of us," says member Jerry Kosel, who has been part of the group since 2016. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War from 1971-1975.

A veteran has earned the right to memorial services with no costs to the family. And the MRS operates completely on donations.

But as its older members are no longer able to perform, it's looking for new members. Kosel says it's down about 10 members. 

"Our rifle squad average age is 73 and a half," said Kosel. "It makes you think a lot about your own mortality being out here, burying these people."

There's also only one woman and two people of color. 

"These are all different minority families, Native Americans, African Americans, and for them to see the diversity on our squad would be very helpful," said Kosel.

To qualify for a membership, you must validate your military service, be a member of a local veteran's organization and commit to 250 hours a year. 

There can be services sometimes up to 17 times a day, every 15 minutes.

 "If it’s raining, it’s snowing, if it’s hailing, we are out here," said Kosel. 

The only exception is lightning and COVID-19. In its nearly 45-year history, the group had never missed a service until the virus halted things from March 2020 to June 2020. 

"We’ve had family members come up behind our bus when we’re leaving, and sometimes it’s tough for them to express to us how important that is to them, and how important it is to us, too," said Kosel.

Kosel is so committed that he and his family moved from southeastern Minnesota to be closer to the cemetery to make sure military veterans are buried with the honors they deserve. 

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