Fred Bertram doesn’t look like a hero – and he probably doesn’t consider himself one – but he is a hero in every sense of the word.
Mr. Bertram joined the Navy at an early age, and served in the Korean War. Since the time of his return, he has worked tirelessly to give back to his country and his community through his work with the Knights of Columbus and the VFW.
Mr. Bertram is a retired firefighter (and that alone speaks for his character), formerly serving in Jacksonville, Illinois. Immediately upon his return from Korea, he joined the Knights of Columbus, and served as the Grand Knight in that chapter. This was the beginning of his volunteerism pursuits. He also joined the VFW about the same time. He has served as Commander of local VFW Post 4549 three times, and has held many offices and chairmanships. The VFW is a very community-service oriented organization, and Mr. Bertram is always there and ready to help with any project.
Mr. Bertram has been involved with the VFW Military Funeral Group for many years. His job is to present the families of veterans with the American flag at the time of burial. This is a sad, but extremely meaningful, task for which he receives no compensation. Sometimes, Mr. Bertram personally attends three or four such funerals per week. His presence at these graveside services is extremely important to the family members of the deceased, because it is one last way to say “thank you” in a proper and respectful manner to those individuals who have risked their lives for our country.
In Illinois the outside temperature is sometimes below freezing or more than 100 degrees. This doesn’t stop Mr. Bertram from showing the families of his fellow comrades that their loved one’s service to our country was appreciated. The families almost always send letters expressing their gratitude for this remembrance, and often, the comments are very emotional.
Mr. Bertram is only one member of the Honor Guard, but his years of service to his community and his country should be recognized. He is now in his 70’s and is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. However, as long as he is able he will be out there – rain, shine or freezing weather – honoring those who served, paying those last respects.