An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Dec. 26, 2023

New York National Guard Conducts Over 9,000 Military Funerals

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

LATHAM, New York - New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen expect to provide military funeral honors for the families of over 9,000 veterans by the end of 2023.

Federal law requires the military to provide honors at the funerals of any former members of the U.S. military not dishonorably discharged, including members of the Reserves and National Guard.

Army Guard honor guards will provide honors for 7,100 Army veterans this year, while the Air Guard conducts funerals for 1,990 Air Force vets.

The New York Army National Guard has 39 Soldiers working funeral details full time and 48 Soldiers who volunteer part time. The New York Air National Guard has 22 Airmen with a full-time funeral honors mission and 68 volunteers. 

Soldiers on the details are trained to ensure that everything they do meets exacting standards. These range from the uniforms they wear, to the way they fold the flag presented to families.

Honor guard members take these standards seriously, according to Spc. Mason Cool, who oversees the Army Guard honors detail in Buffalo.

“We do a lot of rigorous training,” he said. “We are the last visual representation of the Army the family gets, to bring closure and to see that final figure. It has to be right.”

Air National Guard Chief Master Sgt. James Jarmacz, who heads the 174th Attack Wing honor guard at Hancock Air National Base in Syracuse, concurs.

“This may be the only military that some of these family members see,” Jarmacz said. “They see our team out there honoring their family member.”

By law, every veteran is guaranteed a two-person funeral detail.

Mandated honors include folding a flag and presenting it to the family. While one detail member presents the flag, the other plays taps on an electronic bugle.

Retired military personnel and those who died on active duty are entitled to honors that involve as many as nine or more Soldiers. These can include a rifle-firing party and pallbearers.

Ideally, honors are conducted at the gravesite, but honor guards must be flexible, said Army Guard Sgt. Edwin Barreto, who oversees the Army Guard teams in New York City.

His detachment, which provides honors around 1,000 times a year, can conduct six to 10 services a day, Barreto said.

Despite what can be long hours, and a lot of driving, the honor guard Soldiers love what they do, Cool said.

“I have really grown to love this program,” he said. “It is very rewarding.”

Along with training to look good and perform the movements of a military funeral meticulously, honor guard Soldiers are trained to deal with the emotions of the events, Cool said.

“When taps start playing and we present the flag the family is typically crying,” Cool said. “We prepare for moments like that.”

Maintaining composure is not always easy, Barreto said.

“I tell the Soldiers not to choke, but I choke sometimes, especially when you have to give the flag to a very young child,” Barreto said. “I have had to give it to a 7-year-old. It’s difficult.”

On one mission, where remains were being transferred at an airport, it was very tough to keep his composure, Barreto recalled.

“Coming from the plane, the mother just dropped to the floor,” he recalled. “Sometimes it just gets the best of you. We are all human after all and sometimes it just gets the best of you.”



Related Articles
A Moroccan Royal Armed Forces Soldier and Spc. Vanessa Nanevie, a combat medic specialist assigned to Charlie Company, 427th Brigade Support Battalion, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard, learn to safely assemble explosives as part of demolition training provided by 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Corps Forces during exercise African Lion in Tantan, Morocco, May 28, 2024. African Lion 2024 marks the 20th anniversary of U.S. Africa Command’s premier joint exercise led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), running from April 19 to May 31 across Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, with over 9,100 participants from 27 nations and NATO contingents.
NY National Guard Strengthens Bonds with Allies in Morocco
By Avery Schneider, | June 12, 2024
TANTAN, Morocco - More than 480 New York National Guard Soldiers trained alongside other U.S. troops and allies in the Moroccan desert May 21-31, strengthening one of America’s oldest international bonds.The Guardsmen,...

103rd Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, assigned to the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing, pull a patient toward the evacuation location during an exercise at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, N.Y., May 4, 2024. During the exercise, 106th Security Forces Squadron secured the area for the 103rd Rescue Squadron pararescuemen to parachute in, recover the injured personnel and provide medical care and transport via an HH-130J Combat King II aircraft flown by the 102nd Rescue Squadron.
106th Rescue Wing Conducts Comprehensive Rescue Training
By Staff Sgt. Sean Madden, | June 7, 2024
WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. - New York Air National Guard members assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing participated in a combat search and rescue exercise May 4.The exercise at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base involved...

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, Sept. 20, 2021.  Smead was declared missing in action during the Korean War.
NYNG honors more than 10,000 veterans with military funerals
By Eric Durr, | Dec. 23, 2021
LATHAM, N.Y. - New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen provided military funeral services for more than 10,000 families in 2021.As of Dec. 21, 2021, New York Army and Air National Guard funeral honor guards had conducted...