VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
The Virginia National Guard hosted a two-week military funeral honors training course designed to certify instructors to teach fellow Soldiers the skills, procedures and standards for providing final respects to Army veterans, and the final test of the full honors sequence was held Nov. 3, 2016, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a graduation ceremony held the following day.
National Guard Soldiers from Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia took part in the training.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be out here for these vets, whether it is a retiree or a KIA or anyone who has served in the military,” said Sgt. Krystal Medina, a Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the Rocky Mount-based 1173rd Transportation Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group. “We are here for them and to honor that service that they committed to and we are going to be right behind them.”
Medina stressed that number one priority for the funeral honors team is to be there for the family to provide honors for their loved one and show them the appreciation for their service.
“This is serious business,” she said. “It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of dedication to be here but it is definitely rewarding in the end.”
The Army National Guard, along with the active Army and Army Reserve, train and resource personnel in order to ensure all eligible veterans are afforded the opportunity to receive the appropriate military funeral honors, explained retired Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy White, Virginia Military Funeral Honors Coordinator. The Guard conducts approximately 85 percent of the military honor requests each year for all three Army components, and it conducted more than 124,000 requests from October 2015 to October 2016.
“What you do is incredibly important,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Griffin, Director of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff at the graduation ceremony. “Congratulations to all of you. Go forward, do great things and teach, teach, teach your subordinates what you learned here.”
The Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program started in January 2007, and it is composed of five teams located throughout the state which provide funeral details, not just to National Guard Soldiers but to veterans of all branches of the military. They have performed more than 18,000 funeral services throughout the commonwealth and average almost 190 services each month.
In order to make sure military funeral honors are conducted at the highest standards, there are two levels of training provided to Soldiers, White said. Each state conducts the 40-hour Level 1 State Military Funeral Honors Program training to prepare a new honor guard Soldier to provide professional and dignified military honors for all authorized and eligible personnel.
The course hosted at Camp Pendleton is the 80-hour Level 2 National Military Funeral Honors Instructor Certification Course, and it provides the subject matter expertise training as directed by the Army National Guard National Standard Operating Procedures to the few selected honor guard Soldiers throughout the nation that possess the precision, understanding, leadership and trainer dynamics to become State/Territory Level Instructors. The Level 2 Instructor Certification course is conducted in seven different regional training sites and certifies approximately 70 instructors each year.
“The Soldiers who complete the rigorous Level 2 course will go back to their home state and make sure all funeral honors personnel are trained and ready to provide the highest quality honors that our veterans deserve,” White said.
All Soldiers participating in military funeral honors are certified at Level 1 and will have a full understanding and demonstrate an acceptable level of precision in drill and ceremony, standing manual of arms, uniform wear and appearance, veteran honors, full honors and honorable transfers prior to receiving Level 1 Certification. Once certified, the honor guard Soldier can be assigned to provide the respective honors.
The Army National Guard conducts two primary types of funeral honors:
A two-Soldier detail to provide veteran honors for eligible deceased veterans that served with a character
of service other than dishonorable; but did not become deceased on duty or was not retired from military service. The ceremony will consist of two personnel to conduct the sounding of TAPS, military flag fold and presentation of the flag to the primary next of kin or designated next of kin.
A nine-Soldier detail is authorized to provide military funeral honors for service members and retirees with personnel to act as pall bearers, fire a rifle volley, sound Taps, conduct a military flag fold and presentation of the flag.
Family members seeking military funeral honors support should present a DD Form 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty or NGB Form 22 Report of Separation and Military Service to their funeral director, and the funeral director will make the arrangements with the appropriate funeral honors team.