Nov. 16, 2010

Virginia Soldiers honor forgotten servcemembers during Veterans Day ceremony in Suffolk 

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 escort the unclaimed remains of 10 veterans during a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2010 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. The veterans were buried with full military honors in a ceremony attended by servicemembers, fellow veterans and members of the local community.

 

A Soldier from the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program escorts the unclaimed remains of 10 veterans during a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2010 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“Most of these veterans were either homeless or overlooked by their families,” explained John Bonnell, legislative officer of the Marine Corps League, during the ceremony. Some of the cremated remains had been waiting since the 1980s for a proper burial.  

Of the 10 servicemembers, five served in the Army, two each in the Navy and Marine Corps, and one in the Air Force.

A total of 12 Virginia Guard Soldiers participated in the ceremony. They escorted the remains of the veterans, provided a three-volley salute in their honor, and played “Taps” in their memory. In addition, a number of veteran service organizations participated in the ceremony and members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the remains of the fallen veterans to the cemetery.  
  
The Missing in America Project is a nationwide effort to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed remains of forgotten veterans. This was the first event of its kind in Virginia, according to MIAP. Since being founded by veterans in 2006, the MIAP has identified and interred roughly 855 service members across the United States, some dating back to the Civil War.

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.

  A total of 12 Virginia Guard Soldiers participated in the ceremony. They escorted the remains of the veterans, provided a three-volley salute in their honor, and played “Taps” in their memory. In addition, a number of veteran service organizations participated in the ceremony and members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the remains of the fallen veterans to the cemetery. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

A total of 12 Virginia Guard Soldiers participated in the ceremony. They escorted the remains of the veterans, provided a three-volley salute in their honor, and played “Taps” in their memory. In addition, a number of veteran service organizations participated in the ceremony and members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the remains of the fallen veterans to the cemetery.  (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The program has six offices throughout the commonwealth and performs an average of more than 160 funerals each month. The program is headquartered in Petersburg and has teams located in Gate City, Salem, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, and Suffolk. Each team has the capability of performing multiple funerals on the same day.

“They’re the patriots in my mind,” said Bob Huffman, coordinator of the Virginia State Funeral Honors Program and retired state command sergeant major of the Virginia National Guard. “They’re sometimes three hours early for a 20 minute service and they never complain. They do everything with the utmost professionalism.”

 

Officer Candidate Richard Wilson of Chester, Va., a member of the Virginia Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program, performs "Taps" during the Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11, 2010 at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

In the 2010 fiscal year, the Funeral Honors Program conducted 2,015 funerals, which averages out to 168 a month. For the next fiscal year, they are scheduled to perform 175 a month, according to Huffman. The team already conducted 207 in October 2010.

“Beginning in January 2010 we will perform all funerals at the new Dublin State Veterans Cemetery, which is the first time we have been given a state cemetery to conduct all the services,” Huffman said. “We conduct services in two national cemeteries in Culpeper and Quantico on a regular basis. We also do the same at the two current state veterans’ cemeteries in Suffolk and Amelia.”

Huffman said they are always looking for more traditional Soldiers to join the team so they can keep pace with their current requirements and continue to grow.

“We get the word out by visiting units and giving briefs and our current members are always recruiting from their contacts,” Huffman explained. “We interview the candidates to ensure they look like a Soldier and we want to know why they desire to be a member.

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.

For more information on joining the Virginia National Guard’s Honor Guard contact Bob Huffman at (434)-292-9051, or by email at bob.huffman@us.army.mil.

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