“My Happy Place” is a weekly series in which local notables take us on a tour of a favorite spot in their home.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Most properties don’t even have one Humvee sitting on it, nevermind two of them.
But, Chuck Knutson, 55, who has lived in the township for 16 years, is not a typical homeowner.
Knutson is the sergeant-at-arms for Last Salute, a full-service military funeral Honor Guard serving Atlantic County. It provides free military funeral ceremonies for active and veteran military personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.
“There are two very special and unique military Humvees, which are used for military funerals and memorial events,” Knutson said.
The black gun carriage Humvee is used the most, as it tows the equipment trailer, which is needed at funerals. Last Salute’s “Prayer Box,” which contains the photos and prayer cards of all of those honored, is carried inside the Humvee and is the organization’s most sacred possession. It is always there, everywhere the group travels, Knutson said.
“Those within the box are permanent members of our Honor Guard. Many people wish to honor those inside the prayer box. Ten Medal of Honor recipients have signed the dashboard of the black Humvee to honor the prayer box and the fallen heroes it contains,” Knutson said.
The up-armored, slant-back caisson Humvee and artillery trailer are used to transport flag-draped caskets from the funeral home or church to the cemetery.
The caisson Humvee is signed by six Medal of Honor recipients and is an extremely rare later model with armor plating and turret, Knutson said.
At Knutson’s two-floor, four bedroom, four bath home, his “Happy Place” is his office, where he takes care of everything that needs to be done for the Last Salute Honor Guard.
In Knutson’s office, he primarily handles communications about Last Salute’s ceremonies and scheduling.
“A significant amount of time is also spent updating the Last Salute website, www.LastSalute.us, with information and images for families. All of this is provided for free to the families,” Knutson said.
Knutson’s Last Salute office is filled with military antiques and equipment necessary to conduct ceremony operations as well as photos and awards specific to what Last Salute does.
Last Salute continues to gather unique military items and antiques for the purpose of building a mobile museum to set up at events and schools so students and the community can learn about military history, Knutson said.
“Children show more interest about learning history where there are items (that) directly relate to a historical event.” Knutson said.
“Items are often provided by family members of those Last Salute conducts ceremonies for. It is a very special way to honor the legacy of the fallen by using their old military equipment to teach history.”