Veteran performs hundreds of military honors in North Dakota: ‘Something you’ve got to do’

Veteran Marvin Nicklay explained what he wants Americans to remember on Memorial Day

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Marvin Nicklay has devoted much of his life to honoring the late men and women who have served in the U.S. military. 

Nicklay, 81, of Fargo, North Dakota, is a veteran and volunteer with the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard. It has performed hundreds of military honors at funerals at the Fargo National Cemetery.

"It’s the honor of doing it," Nicklay told Fox News Digital about why he continues to volunteer. 

"And the feeling that it gives you ... It’s just in me."

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Since the cemetery opened in September 2019, Nicklay and his team of volunteers have performed military honors for 456 veterans, Nicklay told Fox News Digital. 

Marvin Nicklay, front left, volunteers with the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard, which performs military honors at funerals at the Fargo National Cemetery. (Fargo Memorial Honor Guard)

There are also 109 military spouses buried in the Fargo National Cemetery, Nicklay said. 

However, he said the Honor Guard is not required to do military honors for spouses of servicemen and women.

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Nicklay joined the North Dakota Army National Guard in 1963 and began volunteering to perform military honors at funerals the same year with the American Legion in Barnesville, Minnesota. 

"It got in my blood," Nicklay said.

"It’s just one of those things that was just something you’ve gotta do."

The Honor Guard performs between six and 10 services per week in the spring and summer, Nicklay explained.  (Fargo Memorial Honor Guard)

After almost six decades of performing military honors, Nicklay said he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. 

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Nicklay organizes the volunteers with the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard, who perform between six and 10 services per week during the busier months of spring and summer, he said.

Military funeral honors always involve the playing of Taps and the folding and presentation of the flag, according to the Military One Source website. 

Military funeral honors always include the playing of Taps and the folding and presentation of the flag. (Fargo Memorial Honor Guard)

Nicklay told Fox News Digital that the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard also has a rifle squad that fires during services. 

The empty casings are presented to the family of the deceased, along with a special funeral honors coin, if the deceased was a veteran from North Dakota. 

Nicklay gives the coin and the empty casings to the family and offers the condolences of the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard, which he said is an honor.

"It’s just overwhelming," Nicklay said of the process. "Especially to look them in the eye … It’s tough."

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Nicklay was raised on a dairy farm in Barnesville, he told Fox News Digital.

He joined the Army National Guard because after he graduated from Interstate Business College in 1962, no one would hire him, as he hadn’t done his military service

The Fargo Memorial Honor Guard also has a rifle squad that fires during funerals and at other ceremonies at the Fargo National Cemetery. (Fargo Memorial Honor Guard)

"They said, ‘We don’t want you because we don’t want to train you and then lose you,’" Nicklay recalled.

He served in the Army National Guard for 32 years. 

During that time, Nicklay said he was mostly stateside, though he did do humanitarian work in Honduras a few times with the Guard.

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On Memorial Day this year, Nicklay is participating in several programs at various cemeteries with the Moorhead American Legion Post 21, of which he is a member.

Once those ceremonies are done, Nicklay will head to the Fargo National Cemetery, where the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard will participate in another program at 3 p.m. CDT. 

"Do not forget our veterans who have sacrificed everything."

During the programs and ceremonies, Nicklay told Fox News Digital what he’ll be thinking about.

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"You think about [the families] and what they have lost, and of those that never came back or are buried in far away countries where they fought and died," Nicklay said.

Nicklay also shared what Americans should remember this Memorial Day.

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"Do not forget our veterans who have sacrificed everything, or who have come back home and have passed on," Nicklay said. "That’s what Memorial Day is all about."