Va. Guard Funeral Honors Soldiers honored by SPS

Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Graff Decker, and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, recognize members of the Military Funeral Honors Team Oct. 29, 2013, in Sandston, Va. The Military Funeral Honors Team performs at military funerals across the state and has completed more than 11,000 funerals since its inception in 2007. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Graff Decker, and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, recognize members of the Military Funeral Honors Team Oct. 29, 2013, in Sandston, Va. The Military Funeral Honors Team performs at military funerals across the state and has completed more than 11,000 funerals since its inception in 2007. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. – Soldiers from the Virginia Army National Guard Funeral Honors Program gathered Oct. 29, 2013, at Mullins Armory in Sandston, Va., for a recognition ceremony in front of Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia.

“These folks come from all over the commonwealth,” Long said of the Soldiers who work across the state performing at military funerals. “They say they always feel like it is the last very dignified and very respectful thing they can do for the men and women who have served.”

Since the program began in January 2007, Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program have provided support at more than 11,000 funerals across the commonwealth. In its first year, the program consisted or just two teams performing funerals and completed a total of 157 funerals in their first fiscal year. Today, there are approximately 90 Soldiers in the program, serving both part- and full-time and Soldiers from the program now support nearly 250 funerals each month.

“You all do a tremendously difficult job very well,” Decker said. “I’ve been to several military funerals and have seen you all in action and you’re dealing not only with the family’s emotions, but with your own emotions and it’s a very difficult thing that you do.”

Decker and Long presented several awards to Soldiers serving with the Funeral Honors Program.

“I’m so glad we have the opportunity to honor you for what you’re doing and to thank you,” Decker said. “I want to just thank you for what you’ve done and for what you continue to do and I appreciate your service.”

The recognition ceremony for the Military Funeral Honors Program was Decker’s final act as SPS with the Virginia Guard. Decker was appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, where she will fill a seat left vacant by a recent retirement, starting Nov. 1, 2013.

Bryon Rhode has been appointed by the Governor to replace Decker as the Secretary of Public Safety. Prior to assuming that new role, Rhode was serving as Deputy Secretary of Public Safety.

Photos: Military Funeral Honors Team honored by Sec. of Public Safety

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