Sorrow, sadness and grief are among the most common feelings
associated with funeral services. But for Marines, a service
honoring the life of a fellow leatherneck may also invoke feelings
of pride, commitment and honor.
Military funeral honors are
the final ceremonial demonstration of gratitude to those who, in
times of war and peace, have faithfully defended their nation, from
their compatriots and brothers in arms.
participation in a funeral detail gives a great deal of pride and
honor to any Marine. The Marine Corps Reserve undertakes the solemn
duty of supporting funeral honors for the vast majority of Marine
Corps veterans. In 2016 Marine Corps Reserve units and personnel
performed more than 19,000 military funeral honors, representing 91
percent of all funeral honors rendered by the Marine Corps that
year. Amongst many, one Marine stands out for his devotion and
dedication to giving his fellow Marines one final salute.
Staff Sgt. Brian P. Spittler, a team chief with 4th Civil Affairs
Group, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, has
participated in nearly 200 funeral details since the beginning his
of career in 2006.
December 27, 2017 - Staff Sgt. Brian P. Spittler, a team chief with
4th Civil Affairs Group, Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces
Reserve with his bugle at St. John the Baptist Catholic
Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after he and other
Marines performed military funeral honors at the ceremony of Master
Sgt. Catherine G. Murray, who was the first female Marine to join the
Fleet Marine Corps Reserve. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez)
“Funeral ceremonies mean a lot to me, to the family and
to the community,” says Spittler. “It is an emotional
experience and it never really gets old to me.”
of his motivation and incentive to perform, to the very best
of his ability, is driven by the fact that quite often, the
families of the Marines being honored don’t have a lot of
involvement with the Marine Corps or the military.
Sometimes, they have never had the opportunity to see a
military ceremony before. With Marine Corps Reserve units
located across the country, Reserve Marines are uniquely
positioned to interact with veteran families. The funeral
ceremony is an opportunity to develop the relationship
between the Marine Corps, families and the community;
Spittler wants to make it meaningful and give them a good
“It feels good to know that you are doing
something good for those families,” he says with a wisp of
satisfaction in his voice. “I am definitely proud to be a
part of it, but at the same time I am humbled and I am there
to serve the Marine and their family. For me that means a
The proud Marine explains that there is a
commitment present in Marines to paying tribute to their
fallen brothers and sisters-in-arms.
“I am proud to
be a part of the ceremony in which we are finally laying a
Marine to rest,” says Spittler.
Honors can include but is not limited to: a military
chaplain, to address family members and friends of the
fallen service member, an American flag draped over the
casket, and a funeral detail serving as honor guards to
execute the ceremony. Traditionally, the funeral detail will
act as pallbearers, fold the flag, present it to the next of
kin, fire a three-volley salute and play taps, while
rendering a last salute of respect to the deceased.
Staff Sgt. Spittler was a lance corporal when he
participated in his first funeral detail, back in 2010.
“I was ‘voluntold’ for it,” he says with nostalgia and
humor. “They needed a Marine for the detail, and I just so
happened to have my dress blue uniform on hand, so my
sergeant told me: ‘Hey Marine get ready, you will be in a
funeral detail’. All I could say was “aye aye, sergeant!”
During his first funeral detail, Spittler was one of
the riflemen to execute the three-shot volley. At first, the
ceremony didn’t hold any significance for him and he wasn’t
interested in participating in future funerals.
was away from the ceremony and I couldn’t really see the
family or what was going on,” he says.
December 27, 2017 - Staff Sgt. Brian P. Spittler, a team chief
with 4th Civil Affairs Group, Force Headquarters Group, Marine
Forces Reserve, plays his bugle at St. John the Baptist Catholic
Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Marines provided military
funeral honors at the ceremony of Master Sgt. Catherine G. Murray,
who was the first female Marine to join the Fleet Marine Corps
Reserve. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez)
Spittler continued to be tasked out by his superiors to
participate in funeral ceremonies as was needed. His
disinterest in the ceremonies endured until Spittler was,
for the very first time, assigned to be one of the Marines
who would fold the flag. This time he would be up and close
to the ceremony, the family and the fallen Marine. That day,
his view and opinions on funeral details drastically
“It was the first time I folded the flag in
front of the family,” says Spittler. “I was so moved by that
experience that when they asked for someone to participate in a
detail, I volunteered for it; and I did it again, and again and
From that point forward, the young Marine became
increasingly involved in funeral details.
He recollects that
as a corporal, being in charge of certain aspects of funeral details
and having to meet such a high level of proficiency and discipline
allowed him to exercise and hone his leadership skills.
Keeping Tradition Alive
Spittler also values the numerous encounters he’s had with
“I have met Marines of all generations,”
says Spittler. “Before I started doing these funerals, I had only
worked with Marines within my generation. But when I started doing
these funerals, I started working with a lot of other organizations,
such as the American Legion and the American Veterans Organizations.
I have even met veterans from Korea, Vietnam and WWII, of which
there aren’t many left.”
Spittler explains that throughout
his career as a Reserve Marine, he has always been ready and willing
to help his command. Participating in funeral details and other
volunteer based programs such as Toys for Tots, is the best way he
has found to do it.
Sometimes, Reserve Marines have the
opportunity to participate in Marine Corps events and ceremonies
outside their scheduled drill periods. Marines who are involved in
official events requested by their command, can earn points towards
retirement. Their actions are also noted and considered favorably by
their command for promotions and awards.
Spittler is now a
staff sergeant with a bright and promising future in the Marine
Corps. The motivated Marine continues to volunteer his time
participating in Marine Corps events and ceremonies and mentoring
junior Marines to do the same.
By U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Ian Ferro
The U.S. Marines
Comment on this article