NY Army National Guard provides military funeral honors for 8,485 families in 2021
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Members of the New York Army National Guard Honor Guard carry the casket of Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Henry Colon during military funeral services at Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River, New York on July 7, 2021. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna) VIEW ORIGINAL
NY Army National Guard provides military funeral honors for 8,485 families in 2021
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – New York Army National Guard Honor Guard Soldiers carry the casket of Cpl. Walter Smead, a Soldier killed during the Korean War, during his funeral at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville, New York on Sept. 20, 2021. Smead was declared missing in action during the Korean War. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Andrew Valenza) VIEW ORIGINAL

LATHAM, N.Y. – New York National Guard honor guard Soldiers expect to provide military funeral services for the families of 8,485 Army veterans by New Year’s Eve 2021.

As of Dec. 21, 2021, New York Army funeral honor guards had conducted 8,235 military funerals across the state. Honor guard officials anticipate conducting another 250 military funeral services by the end of the year.

There are 99 New York National Guard who provide military funeral honors. Forty work on the mission full-time and 59 are on-call to work when needed.

In 2020, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conducted 7,122 military funerals. This was lower than the 8,456 conducted in 2019 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, according to 1st Lt. Melisa Rosario, the honor guard officer-in-charge.

A 2000 federal law mandates that former members of the U.S. military who served on active duty or in the reserves and who did not receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible for a military funeral.

At a minimum, these honors are provided by a two-person team that plays taps with a bugle and folds and presents an American flag to the family.

Retired military personnel and those who passed away while on active duty are entitled to honors that involve upwards of nine personnel and can include a rifle firing party and pallbearers.

Military funeral honors are requested through the funeral home which is handling arrangements for a family.

Demand for Army funeral services increased in 2021, Rosario said. In 353 instances, the New York Army National Guard teams had to inform the Army Casualty Assistance Centers, which coordinate military funerals, that the active Army or Army Reserve would have to provide the services, she added.

This year the New York National Guard also provided funeral honors at the burial of Korean War Soldier Corporal Walter Smead, a resident of Hadley, New York who was killed in 1950 during the Battle of the Chosun Reservoir and whose remains were identified in 2021.

The New York Air National Guard also provides military funeral honors.

Soldiers are carefully trained before they can be part of a military funeral service.

While funeral numbers have gone up since 2020, the New York Army National Guard honor guard teams are still following COVID-19 precautions, Rosario said.

For example, instead of handing the folded American flag to a veteran’s family member, the team will fold the flag and leave it on the casket to avoid close contact, she said.

New York Army National Guard Funeral Honors by office in 2021:

• Long Island: 2,513 in 2021, 2,228 in 2020;

• Camp Smith (Peekskill): 1,011 in 2021, 949 in 2020;

• Harlem: 1,077 in 2021, 977 in 2020;

• Albany: 881 in 2021, 761 in 2020;

• Buffalo: 1,090 in 2021, 847 in 2020;

• Rochester: 708 in 2021, 584 in 2020;

• Syracuse: 601 in 2021, 478 in 2020;

• Horseheads: 354 in 2021, 278 in 2020;

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