New York Army and Air Guard honor guards honored more than 10,000 families in 2021

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New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen provided military funeral services to more than 10,000 veteran families in 2021.

As of December 21, the New York Army and New York Air National Guard funeral honor guards had held 10,353 military funerals across the state. Honor Guard officials plan to organize another 318 military funeral services by New Year’s Eve.

There are 211 New York National Guard military personnel – 99 Soldiers and 112 Airmen who provide full-time or part-time military funeral honors.

In 2020, the New York National Guard Funeral Honors Teams conducted 8,807 military funerals. That figure was lower than the 10,859 made in 2019 due to restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to honor guard officials.

A 2000 federal law states that former members of the United States military who served on active duty or in the reserves and who have not received a dishonorable discharge are eligible for a military funeral.

At a minimum, these honors are provided by a two-person team who tap dance with a bugle and pleats and present an American flag to the family.

Retired military personnel and those who have died while on active duty are entitled to accolades that involve more than nine people and may include a rifle team and casket bearers.

Military funeral honors are requested through the funeral home which arranges for a family.

The New York Army National Guard hosted 8,235 military funerals in 2021, according to 1st Lt. Melisa Rosario, the officer in charge of the honor guard.

In 2020, the New York Army National Guard hosted 7,122 military funeral services.

Demand for military funeral services increased in 2021, Rosario said. In 353 instances, New York Army National Guard teams had to notify Army Wounded Assistance Centers, which coordinate military funerals, whether the Army is active or the Reserve Force. The army should provide the services, she added.

There are 40 soldiers assigned to the full-time funeral honors mission. 59 other soldiers are available part-time to render funeral honors.

New York Air National Guard honor guard teams performed 2,118 additional services in 2021, a 25% increase from COVID restrictions in 2020.

In 2020, the New York Air National Guard provided military funeral services 1,685 times.

There are 25 Airmen who work full time as Funeral Honors Coordinators or team members. 87 other Airmen are available as part-time funeral honorary members.

Soldiers and Airmen are thoroughly trained before they can be part of a military funeral service.

According to Master Sgt. Terra Martin, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the honor guard of the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard base in Scotland.

Air National Guard technician. Sgt. Alan Sanchez, who is in charge of the honor guard for the 106th Rescue Wing at FS Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, said his team performed services in 2021 that were postponed to early the pandemic.

The honor guard of the 106th Rescue Wing, which holds funerals in the sprawling Calverton National Cemetery, rendered military funeral honors 650 times in 2021. It was most of all honor guard teams of the New York Air National Guard.

While the number of funerals has increased since 2020, New York Army National Guard honor guard teams are still following COVID-19 precautions, Rosario said.

For example, instead of handing the folded American flag to a family member of a veteran, the team will fold the flag and leave it on the coffin to avoid close contact, she said. And while most military honors take place in cemeteries, they can be celebrated in other locations.

According to Master Sgt. Donald Anderson, the Wing Honor Guard Program Director.

New York Air National Guard Funeral Honors by Base in 2021:

• Eastern Air Defense Sector, Rome: 62 in 2021, 0 in 2020 (42 requests addressed to the 174th Attack Wing).

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