Military Funeral Honors Team honors veterans in Amelia ceremony

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors Program honor the remains of four veterans March 5, 2013, at the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, Va. The Funeral Honors Team provided a firing team as well as Soldiers to fold a flag in honor of the veterans. The event was part of the Missing in Virginia program, which aims to locate and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of Virginia veterans. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors Program honor the remains of four veterans March 5, 2013, at the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, Va. The Funeral Honors Team provided a firing team as well as Soldiers to fold a flag in honor of the veterans. The event was part of the Missing in Virginia program, which aims to locate and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of Virginia veterans. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

AMELIA, Va. – Seven Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors Program assisted March 5, 2013, with the funeral and internment of four Virginia veterans at the Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, Va. The Funeral Honors Team included both a four-man firing team and three Soldiers who folded a U.S. flag in honor of the deceased veterans. The internment was made possible in part by the Missing in Virginia Project, a program that aims to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of Virginia’s veterans.

“These remains are not from deaths related to war,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Klag, who guest speaker for the event and commander of Nottoway County High School’s Navy JROTC program, during his address. “They are local veterans who were honorably discharged from the military who have died and were cremated and for unknown reasons, their families did not come back to claim them or to make a decision on what to do about their ashes.”

Of the four men interred, two had served in the U.S. Army, one in the U.S. Navy and one in the U.S. Coast Guard. Three of the veterans had served during the Vietnam War.

“It’s unfortunate that the deceased have no family to be here, but we treat this funeral the same as any other and the team puts the same dedication and professionalism into each funeral,” said Bob Huffman, coordinator of the Military Funeral Honors Program and retired Virginia Guard state command sergeant major.

Teams from the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program perform at funerals at cemeteries across the state after receiving requests for support from funeral homes and Army Casualty Assistance Centers. Currently, the program averages 240 funerals per month, up from 220 in 2012.

The program first provided military funeral honors at a service held in January 2007. At the time, just two teams were performing funerals and the teams, from Gate City and Fort Pickett, conducted funeral honors at 157 funerals during the fiscal year. The size and scope of the program has steadily increased since its founding and there are currently more than 100 Soldiers serving in the program, both full-time and part-time, according to Huffman.

The Missing in Virginia Project is an offshoot of the Missing in America Project that was founded in 2006 and has since visited more than 2,700 funeral homes across the country, working with funeral directors and veteran’s organizations to identify the unclaimed remains of veterans. Over 16,000 remains have been located and identified since the organization’s beginning.

“We owe these men a great debt of gratitude for their service to their country and we can start to pay that debt by not forgetting, by remembering what they did and what they stood for,” said Klag.

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Photos: Va. Guard Military Funeral Honors Team honors veterans in Amelia – March 5, 2013

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