June 9, 2011

Military Funeral Honors Program Soldiers honored with new state ribbon

By Cotton Puryear        
Virginia Department of Military Affairs

PETERSBURG, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers who have successfully performed more than 50 funerals as part of the Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program were presented with a special state award June 5 in Petersburg. Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright, the Deputy Adjutant General of Virginia, presented the Virginia Military Funeral Honors Ribbon to 24 Soldiers from the approximately 70 Soldiers who have met the standards, and it was the first time the award has been presented.

 

Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright, the Deputy Adjutant General of Virginia, presents the Virginia Military Funeral Honors Ribbon to Spc. Sarah Smith from the 29th Army Band June 5 in Petersburg. The ribbon recognizes Soldiers who have successfully performed more than 50 funerals as part of the Virginia Funeral Honors Team, and Smith has completed more than 500. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

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The award was designed by members of the Funeral Honors Team and was recently approved after more than two years of working through the design and approval process, explained retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Huffman, state coordinator of the program. The Virginia Military Funeral Honors Team on average provides funeral honors to more than 200 veterans' families each month, and more than 8,000 people attended funerals in the month of May 2011 where Virginia Soldiers provided honors.

“The fact that we have this program is very important,” Wright said. “We have a couple of designated days that we recognize all veterans, but when you go out and render honors to someone, to a fellow service member, that is an honor that you are giving that service member and their family on that day, at that time, for that person. That is really important, and it takes pride, dedication and hard work to get it right. It is something that family members will remember for a long time.”

Among those receiving the award were Spc. Sarah Smith from the 29th Army Band who has performed 519 funerals, Staff Sgt. Troy Sisson from the 29th Army Band with 426 funerals and Spc. Thomas Mogush from the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment who has performed 417 services.

 

A total of 24 Soldiers received the Virginia Military Funeral Honors Ribbon June 5 in Petersburg. The award was presented for the first time after a two year design and approval process. The ribbon is blue on the ends in honor of the Virginia state flag with a border of white to represent the purity and honor of the fallen comrade. The purple bordering the white represents the jointness of the Army and Air Guard, and the red white and blue in the center represents the flag of the United States of America. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs)

Click HERE to view more photos on Flickr.

The Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program provided its first military funeral honors service in January 2007. At that time there was 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 with additional Soldiers and they performed 433 funerals. The program expanded even more by performing 1,263 funerals in 2009, and expanded by establishing new regional offices in Suffolk, Fort A. P. Hill and Petersburg. In 2010, Soldiers performed 2,015 services.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the program averages more than 200 funerals each month. The full time staff has grown to 19 and more than 80 Soldiers are part of the program in a traditional Guard status.

The ribbon is blue on the ends in honor of the Virginia state flag with a border of white to represent the purity and honor of the fallen comrade. The purple bordering the white represents the jointness of the Army and Air Guard, and the red white and blue in the center represents the flag of the United States of America.

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.

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