Funeral Honors Team provides final respects to those who served
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Houston, Funeral Honors noncommissioned officer in charge, hands the national colors to Marion Gendell, widow of Korean War veteran Gerald Gendell, July 3. "This was so important," Marion said of the honors rendered by the team at her late husband's funeral, adding that it helped the grieving process.

Commander's Corner
Garrison Commander
Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem

Military funerals have been on my mind lately.

You may have seen the recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where I was quoted in regard to a missed opportunity to honor a deceased servicemember. While that situation is unfortunate, it takes nothing away from the incredible job our Funeral Honors Team does on a nearly daily basis to show the Army's respect for our fallen Soldiers, serving past and present, and their commitment to our military service and the United States.

Our Funeral Honors Team provides more than basic burial and remembrance services - it helps heal the hearts of the Soldier's Family left behind, provides an additional layer of respect to the ceremony and allows the military to give a final "thank you" to the fallen servicemember.

These highly choreographed ceremonies are performed by Soldiers who take the commitment to be their best - in appearance, actions and duty - seriously.

The U.S. Army Forces Command Augmentation Unit, which is assigned to Headquarters Command, U.S. Army Garrison, performs not only funeral details, but also Honor Guard, Color Guard and Salute Battery details.

Team members often volunteer for the duty, which can last up to one year. Being part of the FAU and the ceremonies it participates in is not an "other duty as assigned" for these Soldiers, it is their full-time job.

Funeral details are broken down into various units, from a three-man service representative team to an 11-man full honors team. Service representative teams fold the American flag and present it to the servicemember's next of kin, and a bugler plays taps. Full honors teams include pall bearer services, a firing team to provide gun salutes, the flag-folding team and a bugler.

Planeside honors include a six-man team that carries the casket between an airplane and a funeral home vehicle.

The FAU can perform three service representative funerals or one full honor and two service representative funerals in one day. The team responds to funeral events in 45 counties throughout Georgia.

In fiscal year 2009, the members of the Fort McPherson Funeral Honors Team provided services for 321 events: 59 full honors ceremonies, 242 service representative events, 10 planeside honors and 10 services for Operation Enduring Freedom events.

Of course, the fine choreography performed by the Funeral Honors Team at a service is honed through continuous practice. While funerals are usually scheduled at least 48 hours in advance, the FAU often receives short-notice notification, and the rehearsals ensure the teams are ready at any given moment. Practices also ensure the team is able to mitigate unexpected changes to a service, and lets team members develop personal relationships and a closeness that can make a difference when adjusting as a group to those unforeseen changes.

The DoD provides Military Funeral Honors to the Families of servicemembers and eligible veterans at no cost. The Veterans Administration has established eligibility for military funeral honors to military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve, veterans who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable, veterans who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable and veterans discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

Families of the deceased Soldier work through their funeral director to schedule the honors.

The Armed Forces' final farewell to comrades is steeped in tradition and ceremony. It is not only a privilege for our Funeral Honors Team to take a last opportunity to thank our servicemember or veteran for his or her selfless service, it is a right that each eligible individual has earned.

Our deceased servicemembers deserve no less than the best our Army has to offer, and the Funeral Honors Team at Fort McPherson is second to none.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16