Funeral Honors Available to Veterans
23 February 2010 » By Maine Army National Guard
Staff Sgt. Jacob Mathews, a Whitefield native, and Sgt. Michael Quint from Linneus, render honors during an Honor Guard competition, Fort Myers, Va.
Staff Sgt. Norman Voter, an Auburn native, renders a rifle salute with his team during an Honor Guard competition, Fort Myers, Va.
Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve or Merchant Marine Servicemembers who received an honorable discharge are entitled to a Military Funeral Honors ceremony at no cost to the family.
"The rendering of Military Funeral Honors is a tribute and a way to show our Nation's deep gratitude to Veterans and their families who are entitled", said Frank Norwood, Maine Military Funeral Honors coordinator.
Section 578 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2000 requires the Department of Defense to provide, upon request, Military Funeral Honors for eligible Veterans.
The Maine Military Funeral Honors Program began performing ceremonies for Maine's Veterans in 2004. Since its inception, they have performed nearly 5000 ceremonies from Fort Kent to Kittery and eastern Canada.
According to Maine Veteran's Administration statistics, Maine is losing nearly 4000 Veterans a year. This rate is expected to continue with very slow reductions through the year 2030.
Before the law passed many Veterans did not have access to a Military Funeral Honors Ceremony.
The Maine Military Funeral Honors Team provides Military honors to any honorably discharged Veteran who was not honored at the time of death. Funeral Directors or family members can call and request this service.Currently members of the Maine Military Funeral Honors Team are full time Servicemembers and are trained to the highest possible standards.
Norwood, said, "The Servicemembers selected to perform these ceremonies for Maine's Veterans are extremely proud of what they are doing. They have the utmost respect and admiration for those who served before them."
There are nine Military Funeral Honors trainers on the team who have attended a two week course and been certified as instructors by the National Guard Bureau.
"Veterans of Maine will receive a Military Funeral Honors ceremony performed to the same high standard as those ceremonies being performed at Arlington National Cemetery," said Norwood.
"I strongly encourage all Veterans residing in Maine to allow these dedicated members of the United States Military to perform this ceremony and to simply express our appreciation for their dedicated service to our country," said Norwood.
For more information about the Maine Military Funeral Honors Program or Military Funeral Honors, families and Veterans can visit www.funeralhonors.org or call the State coordinator in Augusta at 1-800-958-5967.
Soldiers Visit Veterans at VA Togus
11 February 2010 » By SGT Peter Morrison
Sgt. Michael Darling, from the 120th Regional Support Group in Augusta, shares a story and a laugh with a veteran at Veterans Affairs Togus, during a week long National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Maine Army National Guard Soldiers Master Sgt. George Yanez, and Sgt 1st Class Michael Wall visit with a veteran at Veterans Affairs Togus during a week long National Salute to Veteran Patients.
Soldiers from the Maine Army National Guard paid their compliments to the men and woman who have fought before them at Veterans Affairs Togus in Augusta, as part of a week long National Salute to Veteran Patients.
VA Togus and other VA hospitals formally invited the Military and local communities in the area to visit with the veterans and see first hand the care they are receiving.
Lorna Hatch, volunteer's service specialist at VA Togus, said the National Salute is a way for the community to pay their respects and make them aware of the hospitalized patients.
"The program has been around for many years and was originally called No Greater Love and it is just a part of our way to make sure the members are not forgotten," said Hatch.
The group of Soldiers toured the hospital and spoke to Veterans ranging from World War II to current conflicts.
"It's a win win situation; it's a win for the members because they automatically and immediately relate to a Soldier in uniform. It's Soldier to Soldier they already have that camaraderie, that relationship, that bond; and they get to see the new wave of Soldiers."
Hatch thinks it's a win for the Soldiers as well as they get to show their appreciation and to say thank you to those who have helped lead the way.
"More often than not when a Soldier says thank you, a lot of our veterans in turn are saying thank you to the Soldiers for their service."
Sgt. Michael Darling, a human resources noncommissioned officer with the 120th Regional Support Group in Augusta and a resident of Wayne considered it an honor.
"It's important to let them know that they have our respect and hear some of their stories and share some of the things we do today. We got to meet a man who said he shook hands with Gen. George S. Patton during World War II," said Darling.
The week long salute is a time to meet and share stories with Americas' hero's but Hatch and VA Togus encourage people who are interested to call and schedule a visit year round.
"We would enjoy having people coming throughout the year; we encourage people to contact the voluntary office. The families love it and it means a lot to veterans to see that people take the time to come visit them," said Hatch.
To schedule a visit or volunteer to spend time with the veterans please contact VA Togus Voluntary Service at (207) 621-4886 or visit their website www.togus.va.gov/giving.