Virginia Guard Military Funeral Honors Program honors veterans

Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program honor the remains of seven military veterans April 30, 2012 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. The veterans were buried with full military honors in a ceremony attended by fellow veterans and members of the local community. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SUFFOLK, Va. — Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program were on hand to pay proper respects to the remains of seven military veterans April 30, 2012 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. The veterans were buried with full military honors in a ceremony attended by family members, fellow veterans and members of the local community.

“Today we find ourselves writing the final chapter of their lives,” said Phil Holwager, a retired Navy chaplain who spoke during the service. “We are here as fellow Americans putting the unburied remains of heroes back in their proper place.  We have come together to show care and concern and it is our responsibility to lay to rest their remains”

The Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program performs funerals at cemeteries throughout the state after receiving requests from funeral homes and various Casualty Assistant Centers at Army installations.

It is currently averaging more than 200 funerals a month and its members have performed more than 2,000 ceremonies this fiscal year, according to Bob Huffman, coordinator of the Military Funeral Honors Program and retired state command sergeant major of the Virginia National Guard.

The Guard Military Funeral Honors Program provided its first military funeral honors service in January 2007. At that time there were only two teams performing funerals, and team members from Gate City and Fort Pickett performed 157 funerals in the fiscal year.

In 2008, the program expanded and performed 433 funerals. The program established new regional offices in Suffolk, Fort A. P. Hill and Petersburg in 2009 and expanded even more by performing 1,263 funerals.

There are now more than 90 Soldiers who serve in the program, both full time and part time, according to Huffman. All members must meet Army height and weight standards and must have passed the Army Physical Fitness Test. New members are then trained by certified instructors who have been to the Military Funeral Honors Course at the National Guard Professional Education Center in Little Rock, Ark.

Huffman said the program needs more traditional Soldiers in order to keep pace with the increase in honors request. To inquire about joining the program you can contact Huffman at 434-292-9051 or by email at bob.huffman@us.army.mil.

 

To view photos from this event, visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157629570087922/

Additional reporting by Cotton Puryear, Department of Military Affairs

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