By Staff Sgt. Johnathan Hoover
2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas – Death is a fact of life and a grim reality, especially for those who make a living defending this country.
Rendering military funeral honors has come to be a time-honored tradition and a way for the nation to show its gratitude to the deceased service member.
Soldiers assigned to the battalions of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Black Jack,” 1st Cavalry Division have been given the privilege of providing military funeral honors to retired and active duty Soldiers who have passed away in the Central Texas area, but it’s not easy.
Not only are the Soldiers under immense pressure to get every step, every movement right, but they must also maintain their bearing even through the onslaught of emotions.
The team of eight Soldiers practiced non-stop for three weeks before their first rendering of honors, said Spc. Brandon Lewis, a member of the honors team assigned to 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion.
“I wanted to make sure my team understood that what we’re doing really means something to the families,” said Staff Sgt. Angelo Mupo who serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the team from Company D, 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “It’s more than just us. It’s about showing the proper respect to the families and the Soldier we are honoring.”
The members of the funeral detail take pride in what they do to honor the memory of those who have passed on.
It is such a great honor to provide this service to those who have served and to show the proper appreciation for what they have done, said Lewis, a native of Anaheim, California.
One of the major difficulties of rendering funeral honors is keeping emotions in check.
Mupo said being on the team is really hard. The team members feel at least some of what the family members are feeling, but must still perform the steps stoically and precisely.
Mupo said the hardest part is presenting the flag to the family member.
“I remember one of my first funerals in particular,” said Mupo, a native of Atlanta. “I got down on my knee to present the flag to the spouse. I looked into her eyes, and the words wouldn’t come out. She looked at me and said, ‘It’s okay, son.’ It was almost as if she was presenting the flag to me. I stood up with tears running down my face, saluted the flag, and stepped off.”
“I think the first ones are always the hardest. It was really hard to see the family’s emotions,” said Spc. Nicholas Sandy of Hartford, Connecticut, a member of the honors team assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
Mupo said although the ceremonies can be emotionally draining, it is very gratifying to perform the service, and the team members learn to control their emotions and execute precisely with time and practice.
After all, the families deserve at least that much.