January 28, 2009
Virginia Honor Guard educates General Assembly
By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs
Spc. Philip Reddick meets with a passer-by at the General Assembly Building in Richmond, Va., Jan. 23. Reddick is a full time member of the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)
RICHMOND, Va. — A Soldier standing tall in his dress-blue uniform adorned the halls of the General Assembly Building in Richmond to help gain recognition for a program designed for Veterans of military service.
The Virginia Army National Guard Funeral Honors Program, at the request of the Virginia Veterans Affairs Office, set up a booth in the hallway of the General Assembly Building Friday, Jan. 23 to help educate and inform Veterans and members of the General Assembly about the services and honors they render throughout the commonwealth.
The Soldier in blues, Spc. Philip Reddick, wore his ceremonial uniform to help draw attention to the booth. Once lured in by the fancy threads, passers-by were encouraged to ask questions and read about the program, which currently provides honors to about 70 funerals a month across the commonwealth.
The Funeral Honors Program, which consists of 11 full-time Virginia National Guard Soldiers and 60 traditional Guardsmen, perform the funerals at two Virginia Veterans Cemeteries in Amelia County and Suffolk, with a third one on the way in Dublin. In addition to the Veterans cemeteries, the Soldiers also service funerals throughout the state at family cemeteries, private cemeteries and even Quantico National Cemetery.
When the cemetery in Dublin opens in 2010, the Funeral Honors Program has already been asked to do all Army funerals there, according to Bob Huffman, state program coordinator for Military Funeral Honors Program.
Although the funerals are performed by National Guard Soldiers, the funerals are held for all Army veterans. “We service all veterans, not just National Guard,” said Huffman. “Our biggest clientele are actually WWII veterans.”
To become a member of the Virginia funeral teams, a Soldier must possess a high degree of professionalism and discipline. The Soldiers must pass a background check, an interview process and conform to Army height and weight requirements.
“We only select the best Soldiers. We think we have the most elite of what Virginia has to offer,” he said.
After a Soldier has passed the initial requirements they are placed in an intense training program that teaches the proper drill and ceremony skills required to perform a full military honors funeral. According to Huffman, many Soldiers do not make the cut.
The 40-hour course is taught by instructors who have attended a two-week course at the Professional Education Center on Camp Robinson, Ark. The instructors course is taught by a former member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, the nation’s premiere ceremonial unit that performs daily military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Virginia Funeral Honors Program teams, which consist of a casket team, a color guard, a bugler, and a firing team, are located at several locations across the commonwealth. They train out of Gate City, Roanoke and Forts Pickett and A.P. Hill.
For more information on joining the Virginia National Guard’s Honor Guard contact Bob Huffman at (434)-292-9051, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.