posted on Feb, 22 2014 @ 02:52 PM
Having been on a military honor guard, I'm honestly not that offended by this pic. Mainly, because I see plenty to tell me that these guys are
probably goofing off during rehearsals. Posting it to social media is obviously a dumb move.
I was in the Army in the mid 90's and did funeral detail as both a pall bearer and firing detail a couple of times. It was part of a host of other
duties that would be tasked out to a battalion during its month of Post Support. The battalion would train a firing and pall bearer detail to send to
funerals of service members over a pretty wide geographic area for a month or so. We did funerals from North of Charleston SC damn near to Miami, FL,
and west into Alabama. This was from a Post on the Georgia Coast. You spend hours and hours practicing your part of the service. You only get one
chance to do it right when it's for real and you are expected by the family, your superiors, and your peers to do it perfectly. Folding the flag in
the proper shape with six + sets of hands touching it is much harder than anyone who has never done it would appreciate, and have a smooth an unified
shot by the firing detail isn't as easy as the units that do stuff like that for a living (like the Old Guard in DC) make it look. Practicing in the
South Georgia heat is a tedious and monotonous duty, and made for some very long days. I've seen more than a few soldiers fall out during a ceremony
in high heat and humidity.
How do I know they are just goofing off on a break during rehearsal? First and foremost the uniform. That's the ACU ( i think, they where BDU's in
my time), which is the everyday uniform for most duties. At an actual funeral they would be in Class A uniform which is what the honor guard soldier
is wearing. From someone on the outside looking in, it seems like the ACU is acceptable wear for things that when I was in you would have needed to be
in Class A or B uniform nowadays, but I guarantee Funeral Detail is not one. It would however be appropriate as the uniform to be worn while
rehearsing. There will of course be a Full Dress Rehearsal and Inspection by either a Command Sergeant Major, XO, or Battalion Commander before the
detail is ready to go a ceremony.
I did the detail twice (about two months worth) in my time at Ft. Stewart. The heat, weight of the deceased and casket, and the path from the hearse
to the grave were the biggest worries and complications during a ceremony. Most of the time it was just get out of the van/bus do the ceremony get
back on the bus and go home, but I have this really fond memory of a flawless ceremony a little south of Jacksonville for a retired Colonel who had
many children, nephews/nieces, and grandchildren in all branches of the military. The family insisted that we come to the wake after the ceremony, and
proceeded to get almost everyone but the bus driver blistering drunk. The NCOIC and OIC for the detail were more than a little worried about it
especially when called into the Battalion Commanders office the day after, only to be told that since their were no funerals to go to that day to give
the entire detail the day off. A fairly high ranking member of the family had called our Post Commander and personally thanked him for our conduct
both during and after the ceremony.
There was no social media and cell phones with cameras or recorders during that time, and I'm kinda glad. After practicing a monotonous and boring
detail for 8 hours straight; or an 8 hour ride followed by a ceremony that was in pouring rain or oppressive heat while toting a 300 lb corpse in
500lb casket 300 yards from hearse to grave, it wasn't that uncommon for someone to spout off an uncouth joke or observation once everyone was back
in the bus.