By Spec. Rachel L. Sanzo, 42nd Infantry Division, NYARNGDecember 29, 2009
The New York Military Forces Honor Guard rendered military honors at the funerals of more than 10,400 former Army members, mostly from the World War II generation, in 2009.
However, there are still Soldiers being buried out there who don't get the honors they are entitled to because they or their families don't realize what they are owed by their country, said Donald E. Roy, the director of Honor Guard.
The Honor Guard is comprised of New York Army National Guard Soldiers who perform these duties in addition to their military and civilians jobs. They provide funeral services for former Soldiers at locations across New York.
When other services cannot provide funeral services for their veterans, they can do that as well, Roy added.
All New Yorkers who were in the Army, even if they never served in combat or finished a 20-year career, are entitled to some form of military honors at their funeral, Roy said.
In order to spread that word, the Honor Guard will buy advertising in the obituary section of The Times Union, an Albany-area newspaper, in January to inform former service members and their families of the honors available to them.
It's a test to see if they can get the word out to more members of the public, Roy explained. If it works in Albany they will take out ads in other places, he said. Most funeral directors are aware that military honors are entitled to deceased service members.
But many family members fail to mention their loved one's military history because they don't think they are eligible for honors due to the fact that they didn't serve in the military long enough, or because they didn't serve in combat, said Roy.
The advertisements will remind families that their loved ones are entitled to these honors regardless of where they served and how long. The ads are being placed in the obituary section because older people tend to read that part of the paper regularly.
"It's very important that we render the appropriate honors to military veterans, no matter if they served in a time of war or peace," said Sgt. Jason A. Daniels, a team leader for the Military Forces Honor Guard with Company C., 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, stationed in Hoosick Falls, New York.
All former service members with an honorable discharge are guaranteed by law at least two Soldiers to provide modified honors that consist of the playing of Taps and the folding of the flag, which is then presented to the next of kin.
These modified honors are offered to the families of veterans at no charge to the family or the funeral home, and allow a grateful nation to pay final tribute to service members who, in times of war and peace, stood strong in defense of the United States of America, Roy said.
"Even if a member of the military served during peacetime and never had the opportunity to venture overseas, it's still very important that we render honors to them," said Daniels, a veteran who served in Iraq.
"They were still part of the less than one percent of our country who volunteered and put their lives on the line. They took the same oath that I did," he added.
"There are many veterans whose funerals were held without honors in past years simply because their families didn't know they were available, and it's a shame," said Roy.
"The last thing I want is for any Soldier or veteran to go without the honors they deserve," he added. This is especially important as the World War II generation ages and those veterans die, he emphasized.