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Sherrie Norris | Watauga Democrat

Military funeral honors explained

Military funeral honors became a mandate by the Defense Authorization Act in 1999-2000, said Nancy Phillips, American Legion Post 130 adjutant.

"Every veteran who has served in the military is entitled to the military funeral honors, as long as he or she has an honorable discharge and has not been convicted of a capital crime," she said.

The final decision for a military funeral honors is left to the family of the deceased veteran.

 Who is eligible?
Military members on active duty
Military retirees
Members and former members of the Selected Reserve
Eligible U.S. veterans of any war
Other U.S. veterans who served at least one term of enlistment and separated under conditions other than dishonorable.
Military members on active duty or military retirees have the option of using Armed Services personnel or local veteran organizations, or both.

Who is not eligible?

Some veterans are not eligible for funeral honors. This includes, for example, those discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions or individuals sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole for a federal or state capital offense.

Military honors in Watauga?

Military honors in Watauga County are presented by the American Legion Post 130 Honor Guard, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 90 Color Guard and members of the U.S. Army North Carolina Honor Guard.
Originally published: 2012-12-17 15:26:49
Last modified: 2012-12-17 15:26:49

Local church helps supply Bibles for military funerals

by Sherrie Norris

The American Legion Post 130 of Watauga County has received a donation of $1,927 from Proffitt's Grove Baptist Church to help pay for Bibles presented to families of deceased veterans during military funeral honors. 

With two of its members also involved in the local American Legion organization, the church family of Proffitt's Grove Baptist raised the money through a missions project as an expression of appreciation to the men and women who serve in the American Legion.  

 "Their very generous gift will allow us to purchase 63 Bibles, which should be enough to meet our needs through the coming year," said Nancy Phillips, post adjutant. 

Before receiving the donation, the American Legion held a flag-folding presentation at the church.
 Johnny Smith, member of the church and a member of the post, read from the ceremonial "Thirteen Folds of the Flag," while using his father's burial flag on the 13th anniversary of his father's burial on Nov. 11.

From that demonstration, Phillips said, "We have already received requests to do the flag-folding display for two other churches."

According to the American Legion's official website, "The Thirteen Folds of the Flag" ceremony represents the same religious principles on which our great country was originally founded:

The portion of the flag that denotes honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right and is inverted only when draped as a pall on the casket of a veteran who has served our country honorably in uniform."

Military funeral honors on the homefront

So far, in 2012, American Legion Post 130 has conducted 44 military funeral honors in the Watauga County area, Phillips said.

And, the word "honors" isn't taken lightly.

"It's truly our privilege to provide these services at no cost to the family," she said. "Each service is unique, whether a burial or cremation. We've conducted funerals all over this county in all kinds of weather, in formal cemeteries and private family plots. We've done two in one day and we've also done two at the same time on the same day."

Phillips said that participating in the funerals allows the legion members to not only pay tribute to one of their own, but it also provides a chance for them to observe a variety of religions, denominations -- and traditions. 

"We've seen and heard it all, from beautifully played music to an individual's remains being blown over the property with a potato gun," Phillips said. "We've seen the depth of love expressed by family of the deceased in various ways, including that of a veteran's casket made from wood by the widow and delivered by a horse team and wagon. Things like that are what make each one so very, very special."