• Soldiers respectfully provide funeral honors

  • Funerals are not easy events, particularly for the loved ones of the deceased, but they can offer a sense of comfort and closure, which is something Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Ferguson said is the job of a Funeral Honors Team.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Funerals are not easy events, particularly for the loved ones of the deceased, but they can offer a sense of comfort and closure, which is something Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Ferguson said is the job of a Funeral Honors Team.
    “It is the honor of actually presenting an appearance and giving the family members a last memory of their loved one,” Ferguson said.
    When a veteran or active-duty service member passes away, Funeral Honors Teams are there to represent the military in a final act of respect. Generally, this includes a 21-gun salute with rifles, the playing of “Taps” and the folding and presenting of the U.S. flag.
    Fort Leavenworth has three Funeral Honors Teams — the Special Troops Battalion team, the 15th Military Police Brigade team and the National Guard team. The teams rotate on a bi-monthly cycle as designated by the Casualty Assistance Office. During each two-week period, one team serves as the primary funeral team and one serves as the alternate.
    Ferguson, whose primary job is with Operations Group Delta, Mission Command Training Program, is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the STB team. He is responsible for training the team in facing movements, making sure everything is done seamlessly and handing the folded flag to the family.
    “It means a lot to me to be able to represent the military, and it is an honor to pay our last respects to the veterans and soldiers,” Ferguson said. “I come from a big military family, so it is who I am.”
    Generally, there are nine people on a team, Ferguson said.
    Six members of the team have multiple duties. If requested, they serve as the pallbearers, the rifle party and start folding the flag once it is lifted off of the casket.
    One member serves as the bugler and plays “Taps” while the flag is being folded.
    The next team member, usually a senior NCO, serves as the main flag folder and the person who gives commands to the firing party. It is his or her job to make sure all corners of the fold are crisp and that no red shows when the flag is completely folded.
    “Stars are always on the outside,” Ferguson said.
    Sgt. Ariel Evans, who works for the Garrison Religious Support Office, is the flag folder for the STB team. She said the folding of the flag is the moment that always stands out to her at each funeral.
    “It is a moment of silence for us as well as the family members to give that remembrance to the soldier,” Evans said. “Then the handing off of the flag, as the flag folder, I’m handing it off to the NCOIC. Once he receives it, I salute it, so it is like my last farewell to that soldier.
    Page 2 of 2 - “At first, (being on the Funeral Honors Team) was just one of the taskings that was pushed out, but then after doing it a couple times, I realized it brings great honor and privilege, especially being the flag folder because you put so much heart into doing the actual fold,” she said. “You want to make sure that it is perfect for the family because it is their last representation that they have of the Army.”
    Ferguson and Evans are both seasoned funeral team members having been involved with the team for one year and eight months respectively, but for many this last cycle was their first time.
    Pfc. Bayleigh Brown, MCTP Operations Group X-ray, said she was excited, but also nervous, when she found out she would be on funeral detail.
    “It is really nerve-racking because it is such a big thing for (the family),” Brown said. “That is their last memory, so you don’t want to mess up anything.”
    Despite the nerves, Brown said it is one of the biggest honors she’s ever had.
    “If it is something I could do throughout my whole military career, I would love that,” she said.
    Pfc. Michael Joslyn, MCTP human resources specialist, said being a part of the funeral team gives him pride.
    “I take a lot of pride in what I do,” Joslyn said. “Throughout the whole ceremony, it is respecting the fallen soldier, respecting the family by doing the best that I can do.
    “It gives me a chance to respect veterans and their families by showing them what they mean to me because they laid the path we’re on now.”
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