Riverside, CA Post 79



by Rees Lloyd
Several hundred volunteers involved in Memorial Honor Detail teams providing dignified
military funeral services for fallen veterans at Riverside National Cemetery were thanked and
honored for their service by the Loma Linda VA at a banquet at the Moreno Valley Conference
Hall on June 9, 2015.
The volunteer MHD program was initiated at RNC in 1996, when the Department of
Defense decided it could not afford to detail active duty personnel in sufficient numbers to
satisfy the need for military funeral services for all veterans. Former County Service Officer Bill
Densmore, Legionnaire Gerri Bright, and Post 79’s late Commander and legendary Legionnaire
Uncle Bobby Castillo were among the founders of the volunteer MHD program.
While all in attendance at the VA’s annual recognition banquet were thanked for their
service, many received awards for reaching milestones of long volunteer service.
Members of Riverside Post 79’s Robert J. “Uncle Bobby” Castillo Honor Guard, known
as MHDTeam 12 at RNC— re-named in honor of Team 12’s founder after his passing to Post
Everlasting in 2008 — were prominently among those specially recognized.
The honors banquet began with the Posting of the Colors by Team 12 members Paul
Arnold, Richard Chalupnik, Peter Keck, Chuck Conley, and Lee Walker.
Speakers were Peter Young, VA’s Director of RNC since 2014; and Dan Smith,
chairman of the RNC Memorial Honor Detail Board of Directors.
Director Young told the volunteers that their continuing service in the MHD program is
extremely important to the mission of RNC to serve veterans and their families.
“I have been honored to serve as director for RNC for some nine months now, and I
cannot stress enough how important what you do is,” Young told the volunteers and their guests.
“RNC is my eighth national cemetery. I can tell you without hesitation that RNC stands
alone. We have the most internments of any national cemetery—2,000 more a year than any
other cemetery. We average thirty-five internments a day. MHD volunteer teams probably
provide military funeral services for at least twenty if not more of those internments,” Young said.
“You are providing an absolutely vital service. Because of you, those who have served
receive the respectful, dignified military funeral services which they have earned; and their
grieving families are solaced as their loved one receives the honor they have earned by their
own honorable military service,” Young stated.
“We are all deeply grateful for your continuing service to the country and your fellow
veterans in the volunteer Memorial Honor Detail program, and I thank each and every one of
you,” Young concluded.
Dan Smith, retired Marine who has long headed up the MHD Board of Directors — who
would later receive a special plaque honoring him for his more than 5,000 volunteer hours at
RNC —expressed what he said is his “heartfelt gratitude to all of you for all that you do in our
MHD effort.”
Smith immediately charged up the crowd: “We happen to live in the greatest nation in
the world. We happen to have the greatest military in the world. And, we happen to have the
greatest volunteers in the whole U.S. of A serving in our MHD Teams,” he said, evoking
confirming spontaneous applause with each assertion from a banquet hall filled with veterans
and other patriots.
Like Director Young, Smith stressed the importance of the MHD volunteers in service not
only to fallen comrade veterans—but also to their families.
“The impact that you have on the surviving family members of our fallen comrades is
tremendous,” Smith said. “They enter RNC in grief, and anxiety, for internment of their loved one.

They experience the dignity, respect, and honor you bestow on their loved one through
your MHD team’s military funeral services. They leave with a memory that they will treasure for
life. Because of you. Because of the honor you bestow on those who earned it —their loved
ones, our fallen comrades.”
After the speeches of Young and Smith, Master-of-Ceremonies Joe Andersen, former
Navy SEAL who is now on the RNC Staff, led the presentation of awards recognizing long
service of volunteers. He was aided on stage and on the microphone by Bill Baker, successor to
Uncle Bobby Castillo as Captain of Post 79’s MHD Team 12, and long the Secretary of the RNC
MHD Board of Directors.
Among the many receiving awards for reaching milestones of volunteer hours, were Post
79 Team 12 members, including:
—Richard Chalupnik — 300 hour milestone.
—Bob Bowes and Lee Walker — 750 hour milestone. Bowes received also a special
recognition award for innovating a metal detection effort by which he has recovered some 2,000
expended blanks for re-use by MHD Rifle Teams.
—Paul Arnold—for 8 years, and 1,288 hours.
—Peter Keck — for 12 years, and 1,939, hours.
—Bill Baker—for 14 years, and 3,597 hours.
Post 79’s MHD Team 12 also received a Team Award for providing Honor Details for
patriotic events off-site sponsored by various community and governmental organizations.
Dan Smith, on presentation of his plaque for remarkable volunteer service exceeding the
5,000 hour milestone, saluted all those serving in the MHD effort, and stressed that it is not him
or any individual, but a “team effort” that has made volunteer MHD services a success.
“A lot of time, it is very difficult and demanding. The temperature is over 100 in summer,
and its cold in winter. Or its raining. There are delays and snafus and you have to be
flexible.You are not only not paid you are paying your own expenses.You give of your time, and
your money. And you always come through. I cannot thank you enough,’’ Dan Smith said.
“And I know, for you, it is, as it is for me, a labor of love. Simply to come out to honor our
fallen brothers and sisters is an honor itself. God bless you all.”


To join or assist our Honor Guard you may call the Team Captain,

Richard Chalupnik at (951) 202-1802.

(Rees Lloyd, a Life Member of Post 79, is also a member of Post 79’s Robert J. "Uncle Bobby"
Castillo Memorial Honor Guard.)

For additional information on the MHD at RNC, click on the link below