SUFFOLK, Va. — Michael Ihrig is making sure fallen veterans get the respect they deserve.
This week, 13News Now is recognizing non-profit organizations as a part of Military Support Spotlight, including MITS-GIVES, Inc.
Ihrig, a longtime Navy veteran, founded the organization to ensure that more veterans receive funeral honors.
With every burial at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk, comes a story of sacrifice.
“It’s just an honor to be able to give back,” Ihrig said. “They all gave their all for their country, and it’s just an honor to be able to provide that final honor to them."
In 2022, Ihrig founded MITS-GIVES, after learning many veterans do not receive full funeral honors.
“By full honors, I mean, somebody playing ‘Taps’ on the bugle, somebody folding the flag and presenting the flag to the family, and obviously somebody playing the 21-gun salute," he said.
The Albert G. Horton, Junior Memorial Veterans Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 16,000 veterans and averages 1,200 burials per year.
But, only about one out of every ten interments involve burial honors.
Now, the nonprofit organization strives to provide honors to all who request them.
Its mission is to honor and recognize veterans, their families, and the community through volunteering and raising funds for local and national charities, according to the program's website.
They’ve established a volunteer Honor Guard for the Suffolk cemetery, led by fellow Navy veteran and sergeant of arms, William Johnson.
“We come out here to do due diligence to those who nobody thought of it; nobody planned it," said Johnson.
Johnson served 24 years in the Navy, including Vietnam in the 1960s.
When asked why he volunteers, he didn’t hesitate.
“Respect, dignity for the men and women who wrote that contract to the United States, signed it, and paid for it," said Johnson.
Commissioner Daniel Gade oversees Virginia’s veterans services department, and partners with Ihrig to make this all happen.
“Every time we bury one of these heroes, I think they deserve an honor," said Gade.
Wounded in combat twice during his time in the Army, Gade said the efforts by MITS-GIVES, Inc. are invaluable.
“Look at how great this country is. The men and women who sacrificed and served in the military did that. When their time is done, when they’ve gone to the clearing at the end of the path, now is the time we get to honor one last time.”
They broke ground in April for the new Memorial Honor Guard Corps Building to be used as a workplace and shelter for corps members.
Now, all they need is the people. They've recruited about 30 volunteers so far, with a goal of 300.
"Anyone can help," said Irhig. “It doesn’t cost you anything but time and effort. No money. You don’t even have to bring any cash whatsoever.”
However, Ihrig didn't know 13News Now had a surprise for him: a check for $1,000 to support their cause, but the surprise didn’t end there.
Word of the group’s mission reached Brian Dunnigan of Thompson Creek Windows, and they wanted to give a gift of their own.
“On behalf of all our employees at Thompson Creek, we’d like to also make a donation of $500 to help you with your mission," said Dunnagan, branch general manager of the company.
“I’m honored to be able to take this and put it to good use. This is going to go a long way towards supporting our veterans and their families," exclaimed Ihrig.
Learn more about MITS-GIVES, including how to donate and volunteer, here.