RALEIGH, N.C. - Two North Carolina National Guard Funeral Honors soldiers took the initiative to commemorate the service of a former Army veteran when another funeral honors team was unable to facilitate due to a serious motor vehicle accident that injured 10 military personnel on Jan. 3, 2014.
Sgt. Brett Miller, a member of Headquarters, Headquarters Company 1-120th Infantry Regiment, and Spc. Lewis Rolband, a member of Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 1-113th Field Artillery Battalion for the N.C. Guard performed an official funeral honors ceremony for a 31-year retired Army veteran, Army Col. Harris Morrse, in Charlotte, N.C.
Miller and Rolband covered down on this event after a 10-man team of active duty 82nd Airborne soldiers from Fort Bragg were involved in a serious automobile accident en route to Charlotte.
The team was the original ensemble that was set to perform at the ceremony. As of Jan. 8, five of the soldiers are listed in critical condition; two had to be airlifted from the scene and three received minor injuries.
Miller and Rolband were notified two hours prior to the scheduled start of the service, and rose to the occasion of providing this service to one of their fallen comrades. The two were faced with an easy decision: covering the event or having this veteran go without military honors?
“Just tell me when and where I need to be and I'll get there,” said Miller. “I just hope that the 82nd soldiers are OK.”
Miller has served his country by serving in not one, but two branches of service. His first was the U.S. Marine Corps and his second is now as part of the NCNG as a combat medic.
Miller said he genuinely appreciates the privilege of being a part of the Funeral Honors program for over the last four years.
“Between doing this as a Marine in Washington, D.C., and now as a member of the North Carolina National Guard, it's always been my privilege to render honors to the veterans of our great nation,” said Miller. “I don't know that I'll ever do anything in my life as fulfilling as what I do right now.”
Rolband is a fire support specialist for the Guard that also shares the privilege of being a part of the funeral honors team for a little over two years now. Rolband has a passion for this honor and was awarded as a Distinguished Graduate of the Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors course in Arkansas in August of 2013.
"We had just finished getting ready as everyone was pulling up,” said Rolband.
The funeral director for Heritage Funeral Home expressed how grateful she was that Rolband and Miller could make it to the event.
"Anyone in uniform is a member of the same family, so we just hope the best for each other," said Rolband.
During the ceremony, the two soldiers folded and presented an American flag to the loved ones of Morrse, and Miller, a live bugler, played taps; an honorary salute to the fallen.
The NCNG Military Funeral Honors Program has been providing honors to eligible service members since 2006. Last year, they provided honors to more than 3,800 service members across N.C.
For those interested in seeking the services of the North Carolina National Guard Funeral Honors Team, visit their website at: http://www.nc.ngb.army.mil/SS/Pages/MH.aspx, or contact Michael Wilber, state coordinator of North Carolina Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors at 1-800-621-4136, extension 46328.
Miller and Rolband also received coins from Army Col. Clifford Wilkins, chief of Joint Staff for the NCNG, in recognition of their loyalty and selfless service to our military veterans. The coin, in the shape of an arrowhead, signifies that on that particular day, these soldiers were at the tip of the spear in the mission.