By Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman, B Co., 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation RegimentJune 27, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2013) -- Rendering final honors to deceased military members is considered by many Soldiers as the highest demonstration of gratitude that one can bestow upon grieving Families.
Since 2003, the Fort Rucker casualty assistance office says this responsibility has fallen primarily on Honors Detachment. "Honors Det," as it's called by those who fill its ranks, is based at B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment.
For the Soldiers of Honors Det, the responsibility of rendering final military honors is a mission that must not fail.
"We owe it to the Families of the people (the veterans) to show them that we appreciate what their loved ones have given to the United States," said CW3 Bryant Lawler, officer in charge of Honors Det. "It's important to show the Family that the service member isn't forgotten."
Honors Det performs its service in a variety of places, said Lawler. This includes funeral homes, cemeteries, places of worship and planeside. For this reason, Lawler said his teams rehearse for a minimum of two hours daily on the key tasks performed. These tasks include folding the American flag, firing the three volleys, and the scripted presentation of the American flag to the deceased's Family.
"They need to be flexible," Lawler said of the fluidity of a scripted memorial service. "They need to be ready for anything."
Even with the time spent training, Lawler said he and his team of trainers who certify flight students on the procedures for rendering honors cannot fully prepare Soldiers for the service they will perform.
"The emotional part is the hardest part to deal with," said Lawler. "You can learn to fold a flag, but when you're out there looking at the next of kin … it's hard."
In 2012, Honors Det participated in 515 memorial services, according to internally-collected unit data. More than 111,000 miles were driven by the detachment's members to get to services.
Most of the state of Alabama and most of Florida's panhandle fall within the unit's area of responsibility, said WO1 Andrew Webb, a flight student who assisted in managing the detachment's operations.
WO1 Robert Icona recently had a break in between classes at flight school. During this time, he has served in a few funeral ceremonies. He says many of those chosen to perform the ceremonies have self-initiated stress to perform.
"Not messing up (is the hardest thing)," Icona said. "You put a lot of pressure on yourself. You want to do the best you can. We owe it to these people. We owe it to their Families."