VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program hosted basic funeral honors training for 30 U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the Fort Eustis-based 7th Transportation Brigade April 19-23, 2021, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“We’re trying to give them a foundation of the basics of funeral honors,” explained Staff Sgt. Jason Cain, the senior instructor for the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program. “Like how many Soldiers should be on a funeral detail, how to fold the flag the proper way, and make sure they’re not doing anything out of regulation.”
Cain was joined by three other Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers as well as Sgt. 1st
Class Jonathon McGlone, the lead funeral honors trainer for the Maryland National Guard.
“With 30 Soldiers we need as many eyes as we can get,” Cain explained.
While it was the first time working in with active-duty Soldiers from Fort Eustis, the VNG MFH program previously worked with Soldiers from Fort Lee. The training event tested the trainers’ ability to be flexible and innovative, according to McGlone.
They were only expecting 16 active-duty Soldiers to train but 31 showed up on the first day.
“And we only had two trainers and an assistant to conduct the training,” he explained. “We came up with an effective plan and executed that plan which led to our success in training all 31 active-duty Soldiers.”
Although the five-day training focused on the physical aspects of conducting funeral honors, the Virginia Guard Soldiers also spent time explaining the importance and value of the funeral honors mission.
“We want them to understand that funeral honors is not just a detail,” Cain said. “We take a lot of pride in it. It’s an honor to do it. You’re not there for yourself. You’re here to honor that family and honor that veteran. We’re trying to give them a new way to look at it and it seems to have helped them. I think it really made them take more pride in what they’re doing.”
“As an Army National Guard Honor Guard trainer, I was surprised at how receptive the active-duty Soldiers were with the training,” McGlone said. “As active duty Soldiers the honor guard detail is usually a temporary additional duty. Where in the Guard this is our full-time job. The focus and determination that some of the active-duty Soldiers showed was impressive and showed us as trainers that they truly understood the importance of the duty they perform as honor guardsmen.”
Even though the opportunity to provide training like this to fellow Soldiers was important, it also meant they were taking personnel away from the Funeral Honors Program who could be performing ceremonies during those five days.
Cain explained they often say funeral honors is the most important job this side of the ocean and their job tempo has been increased recently. The program previously averaged 170-185 funerals a month, according to Cain. The past few months saw that number jump to 200-250 a month.
As a result, they are seeking more Virginia Guard Soldiers interested in joining the program so they can continue to provide services for every veteran who deserves it. A Level 1 Funeral Honors Training Course is being planned for June.
For more information about the program please visit- https://va.ng.mil/Programs-Resources/Funeral-Honors/
or call 434- 480-2599.