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Military Funeral Honors classes in Fargo

  • Published
  • By Capt. Penny A. Ripperger
  • 119th Wing Public Affairs
It was an exhausting, but rewarding week for the volunteers attending the Military Funeral Honors training Aug. 12-17. Members from the Air National Guard, Army National Guard and the Navy Reserve received the training at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Fargo, N.D.

The course is designed to educate military members in a variety of funeral honor categories, including drill and ceremony procedures, flag folding, uniform standards, rifle detail instruction and execution. Members also learn the historical significance of the program.

"There has never been training like this in North Dakota," said Janette K. Fetch, N.D. Funeral Honors Coordinator. "In the past, veteran organizations have graciously taken on this responsibility."

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act in 2000, which requires the Department of Defense to provide military funeral honors for eligible veterans upon request. As a result, all branches of the military are working together to honor veterans of all military service components.

"The camaraderie that has been formed with all the branches working together has been a really neat and interesting part of the class, said Staff Sgt. Jolene R. Sauvageau, 119th Wing. "I'm new to the honor guard, this is great training."

"This training is very important because it offers consistency across the nation," said
Fetch. "After this class, members have more confidence and feel prepared when performing at funerals."

Since Oct. 2006 the N.D. Military Funeral Honors team has been involved in over 144 funerals.

I've been involved with the honor guard before. I attended this training because it gives me another opportunity to honor the veterans of this country, said Army SPC Richard Ceynar, 818th Engineer Company.

A common task of a funeral honors team includes flag folding. Students are taught the three authorized flag folding techniques: two-man fold, three-man fold and six-man fold.

The appearance of the member's uniform is also an important part of the instruction. Out of respect for the veteran they are honoring, students are instructed to look as sharp as possible when performing funeral duties.

"In the evenings after class, we have been busy preparing our uniforms for inspection. It will be impressive to see the different branches wearing their respective uniforms on examination day," said Senior Master Sgt. Karen F. Erickson, 119th Wing Military Funeral Honors Coordinator.

Students also receive instruction on how to properly carry out a firing party, specifically the three-shot volley. This is a vital part of the ceremony that must be performed with exceptional precision.

"At first, it seems like there is so much information, but the last few days when you put it all together, it makes a lot of sense. I have really enjoyed the class", said Army SPC Elizabeth Feliciano, Army National Guard.

After successful completion of the course, students earn the right to proudly wear the honor guard tab on their uniform. This tab states that they are qualified to administer and participate in military funeral honors presentations in N.D.

"I'm a veteran myself. Getting the chance to show respect to the veterans is an honor and a privilege. I am proud to be here," said Army SPC Christopher Hanson, Military Funeral Honors instructor.

"The word is getting out there, we had a waiting list for this class" explained Fetch. "Military members are raising their hand and want to participate because it's such a rewarding experience."

The 119th Wing is looking for airmen to join the N.D. Military Honors Team. The next week-long Military Funeral Honors Class will be Sept. 23-29 at Camp Grafton, Devils Lake, N.D.  Afternoon and evening classes are also offered four days a month at the Armed Forces Reserve Center, Fargo, N.D. Please contact Senior Master Sgt. Karen F. Erickson, the 119th Wing Funeral Honors Coordinator, at 701-451-2311 for more information.