Volunteers brave Minnesota's brutal cold to honor veterans buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery

Volunteers brave cold to honor veterans

Across the Midwest, historic cold weather has closed schools and businesses. But as CBS Minneapolis' John Lauritsen reports, a group of American heroes are still hard at work.

A volunteer rifle squad and color guard at Minnesota's Fort Snelling hasn't missed a funeral in 40 years. Not even when it's 28 degrees below.

"No matter what the conditions are, rain, snow, sleet, this 25-below weather, we'll be out here," said veteran Mike Hanzal.

On Wednesday, with a wind chill of negative 36 degree, members of the volunteer group showed up at a funeral for a fellow veteran they didn't even know.

"It's an honor for me to be there. It's just something that I like to do and do for the veterans. They deserve it. They served our country and served it well," said veteran Ken Tibesar.

Funeral services tend to be slower at Fort Snelling National Cemetery during the winter. While some families decided to postpone, the volunteers still showed.

"It's important to understand that veterans, when they served their country, didn't have a choice of the weather or location," said John Knapp, deputy director at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

About 90 percent of the cemetery staff are veterans as well. Risking frostbite, they too consider it part of their service to honor those who've gone before them. Even in these elements, it's the least they can do.

"Despite the extreme cold and cancellations in the state of Minnesota, our staff is 100 percent dedicated to make sure we do our mission," said Knapp.