LATHAM, N.Y. – New York Army National Guard Soldiers conducted military funerals for 8,725 New York families during 2015, and expect to have provided services more than 8,900 times by New Year’s Day 2016.
Thirty-five Soldiers work full-time for the Military Forces Honor Guard, while another 107 Guard Soldiers provide services on a part-time basis. The Soldiers go through a weeklong training process to become fully certified in providing military funerals.
In 2014 the Soldiers provided services at 9,567 funerals.
The number of military funerals provided by the New York Army National Guard declined due to reductions in funding, according to Peter Moran, military funeral honors coordinator for New York.
The New York honor guard passed 656 requests for funeral honors to the Active Army at Fort Drum and Fort Dix when personnel were not available to handle those funerals, he said.
Additional funds have been provided for 2016, so the honor guard will be able to take more funerals, Moran said.
Funeral directors reach out to the honor guard to request military funerals when the family asks and can provide proof of military service.
Since 2000, federal law has mandated that any military veteran who did not receive a dishonorable discharge from the armed forces is eligible for military honors at his or her funeral. The ceremony must include the folding and presenting of the flag of the United States to the veteran’s survivors and the playing of Taps.
The size of the detail varies from a minimum of two service members to nine or more personnel for deceased service members who retired from the military after a full career or were awarded medals for valor. At least one of the honor guard members must belong to the service the deceased service member had served in.
The Army National Guard Soldiers primarily provide funeral services for Army veterans, but can conduct services for veterans of other services.
They also conduct honorable transfers of remains; transferring caskets from and aircraft to a hearse, when requested. In 2015 the New York Army National guard provided this service six times.
The Soldiers are assigned to regional offices across the state to provide the most responsive service, Moran said.
The regional breakdown for New York Army National Guard funerals in 2015 is:
• Long Island- 3,317
• New York City- 1,464
• Rochester -776
• Albany- 596
• Kingston- 517