Updated: 05/26/2014 7:09 AM
Created: 05/24/2014 4:08 PM KSTP.com
By: Josh Rosenthal
The Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery has said farewell to fallen soldiers for 35 years.
The squad was the nation's first to be made up solely of volunteers. They currently have 127 active members. On Sunday morning, 11 of them left for Virginia at the request of President Barack Obama.
The group was expected to attend Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery as a guest of the president.
One of those going on the trip is Allan Johnson. Johnson is a Navy veteran who fought in Vietnam. He first saw the rifle squad when his brother was buried at Fort Snelling.
"I said I have to do this when I retire," Johnson remembered. "It's a great honor and a privilege to be able to do this for the soldiers."
The squad has honored more than 65,000 soldiers. The group has put in more than 1 million volunteer hours, and traveled more than 5 million miles to do it.
In addition to the president's invitation, this year marks another first for the squad. They now have a female commander.
Terri Winter is the only woman on the squad. She was unanimously elected to her post.
"Thirty-five years ago it would have never happened," Winter said. "The biggest compliment that I received one day was being called one of the guys. That was just heart warming to me."
"She's a great woman, and it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman," Johnson said. "I feel if you can do the job, you should be able to do the job."