If it's wrong, I've probably said it...
Published on March 21, 2005 By chiprj In Blogging
We had another full honors funeral on Saturday. This one was also for a retired Navy officer. We had practice on Thursday and we cleaned the rifles thouroughly in hopes that they would fire better. We also had a number of new service members at practice, so I told them that some of them could come along to see the military honors firsthand.

I made contact with the funeral home on Friday and found out that this ceremony would be short. There would be a church service prior to the ceremony at the cemetery. Also, this funeral would involve an urn, instead of a casket, so there would be no need for pall bearers or flag folding. I was at a funeral in the same cemetery last summer, so when the lady described the mausoleum to me, I was able to picture exactly what she was explaining to me. I knew already where I'd place the rifle team and bugler based on my memory of the cemetery.

I had the team meet early (as usual) and we drove down to the cemetery in Monterey. We got there about an hour early, so I had plenty of time to make coordinations with the lady from the funeral home and the Lt(JG) from the Navy. The actual vault was on the second floor of the open air mausoleum, but there was not enough room there for everyone from the church to fit. So, we decided that the military honors would be done first, downstairs in a gazebo. Then, the funeral director would take just the immediate family upstairs for the interment. It was open air, so all other friends and family would still be able to watch from below.

The Lt that came was a different person from the Lt that came to the funeral a week earlier. I could tell that he was a bit nervous, so I ran through the ceremony with him and did my best to help calm him. There was no place to put the (prefolded) flag during the ceremony, so we decided to have him hold it, next to the urn. That way, when it came time to present the flag, he could just march to the widow and present it. Very simple.

Family and friends began arriving about 30 minutes early, so I helped direct traffic a bit. I pointed out where the vault was located upstairs but explained that military honors would be in the courtyard around the gazebo.

When the family arrived, I was introduced to the widow and one of her sons. The widow seemed to brighten a bit when she saw the rifle team standing in the courtyard. Her son thanked me for being there. I followed the family in to the gazebo and stood next to the Lt, who was already there with the flag. In the meantime, the funeral director explained to the priest the sequence and he immediately headed upstairs to the vault. The director then came over and gave me a nod from behind the crowd to proceed. I took three steps out and did a right face to center myself on the urn and then rendered a salute. The firing team leader gave the order to start the volleys. The extra attention to cleaning paid off and all but one rifle fired all three rounds (double feed on the last volley). It was very loud. Despite being open air, the rifle team was still surrounded by the stone walls of the mausoleum. After Taps sounded, the Lt presented the flag and we both moved off to the side together.

The funeral director then ushered the immediate family and friends upstairs to the vault. When they had cleared the gazebo, I turned to the firing team leader and had him march the team out. The Lt followed them while I policed up the spent brass.

All in all, it was a quick ceremony. It went well and I'm going to miss the team. Most of them start class this week and the new personnel will be working from now on.

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