Scott AFB Honor Guard Renders Final Honors At Funerals
(January 30, 2011)
|SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (Jan. 27, 2011) - While the notes of "Taps" are heard at many bases daily signifying the end of the day, it is also played during military funerals. |
|The concept of military funerals began during the Napoleonic Wars when the dead were carried from the battlefield covered by a flag. |
Military funeral honors are now mandated by the law at the request of an eligible veteran's family.
The Scott AFB Honor Guard is responsible for ensuring that these finals honors are given properly across a six-state region around Scott.
"It is our duty to present the last honors to a fellow airman who has passed away," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Wise, Scott Honor Guard acting superintendent. "We also have the duty of showing our respect to the family members of the fallen service member."
Members of the 375th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard firing party salute during a funeral procession, Jan. 21, 2011 at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Mo. The Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Honor Guard performs numerous details for veterans at this cemetery as well as covering funerals throughout a four state region. Airmen of all ranks and units are assigned to the Honor Guard for four months at a time. UASF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia
|The honor guard's presence at these funerals also serves an ambassadorial role as well.|
|"Many of the funerals we serve in are in locations without a military presence. Our being there allows the members of that community to see and potentially meet service members face to face," said Wise. "This is one of the many reasons why we're extra careful to always maintain our military bearing." |
Members eligible for a military funeral include, members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve; former military members who served on active duty and left under conditions other than dishonorable; former military members 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 former military members discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
The Honor Guard divides the funerals they serve into three categories.
The first category is the smallest type of funeral detail the Honor Guard fills and is for honorably discharged veterans. For these types, the Honor Guard sends a two-man detail who fold and present the flag to the family.
Funerals for retirees who have served 20 years or more constitute the second category. This type of funeral consists of carrying the casket, folding and presenting the flag, three volley salute and a bugle player. Six to seven member teams are sent to these funerals, three of whom are part of the three volley salute.
Funerals for active duty members are the last and largest type of funeral that the Scott Honor Guard serves. A team of at least 20 is sent in support of this category of these funerals.
The active duty funeral is similar to those for retirees. In addition to those same tasks, a colors team is sent to present the colors and seven members are on weapons detail instead of just three. An NCO in charge of the entire Honor Guard detail is also sent to the ceremony.
"It's an honor knowing that we're the final representative a family will see from the military for their fallen family member," said Senior Airman Tristin English, Scott Honor Guard member.
The Origin of Taps
Up until the Civil War, Lights Out, a song borrowed from the French, was played to indicate the end of the duty day. In July 1862, after the Seven Days Battles with 600 men wounded, Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield called on Oliver Wilcox Norton, the brigade bugler, to write a new piece because he felt Lights Out was too formal, but he still wanted to honor his men. Butterfield showed him the back of an envelope with notes and asked him to play. After several tries and changes to the notes on the envelope, Norton played, what is now called Taps. Neighboring brigades began asking for the music and playing Taps as well. In 1874, Taps was officially recognized by the U.S. Army. In 1891, Taps became standard for military funerals.
The practice of firing three volley salutes over the grave comes from an old custom of halting the fight to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once each side cleared its dead, they would fire three volleys to indicate that the dead had been cared for and they were ready to go back to the fight. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a 21-gun salute.
|By Air Mobility Command Public Affairs|
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