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Military honor guard performs record number of funerals in 2011

by jmaloni
Fri, Jan 13th 2012 06:55 am

The New York Military Forces Honor Guard performed more military funeral honors in 2011 - more than 10,500 - than at any time since it was created in 1999.

Last year, the honor guard provided honors at the funerals of 10,415 soldiers, service members and veterans.

Don E. Roy, the director of the program since 2003, said the bulk of these funerals, more than 90 percent, were for veterans of World War II.

The 60 Army soldiers who work full time with the honor guard and the 70 who participate in funerals on a part-time basis work out of nine offices located across the state from Long Island to Buffalo. In the Buffalo region, they participated in 1,267 funerals.

Any veteran, with an honorable discharge, whether he served during peacetime or wartime, whether he retired or not, is entitled to military honors at his funeral, Roy said.

Federal law requires that at least two honor guard members, from the parent service of the deceased, be present to play Taps, fold and present a flag to the next of kin for all former soldiers when requested by the family or a designated representative. For most of those funerals, the honor guard sends three members whenever possible.

Spec. Vanessa Banks, a Niagara Falls resident and an honor guard member since 2010, works with the team based at the Masten Avenue Armory in Buffalo. Her office, one of the busiest offices in the state, does at least two funerals a day every day of the week, she said.

A cook in Company D of the 427th Support Battalion who will deploy to Kuwait in 2012, Banks said it's a real honor to represent the Army and the Army National Guard at military funerals.

"You're the last military representative of the United States Army the family gets to see," she explained. "There is a real sense of satisfaction. It makes you really proud."

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