45th Sust. Bde.’s funeral detail honors, connects with families

| August 2, 2013 | 0 Comments
HONOLULU — Staff Sgt. Brandon Terry (left) and Spc. Jonae Blackwell, both of the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade, refold the American flag during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, July 23. (Photo by Spc. Erin Sherwood, 45th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade)

HONOLULU — Staff Sgt. Brandon Terry (left) and Spc. Jonae Blackwell, both of the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade, refold the American flag during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, July 23. (Photo by Spc. Erin Sherwood, 45th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade)

Story and photos by Spc. Erin Sherwood
45th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command

HONOLULU — Three Soldiers from the 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, are connecting with family members of the fallen while conducting funeral honors at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific from July through September.

“It’s a privilege to participate in something like this,” said Spc. Jonae Blackwell, a member of the 45th Sust. Bde.’s funeral detail. “I heard that my squad leader was selected for the honor, and I asked if I could be part of it, too.”

Staff Sgt. Brandon Terry,  45th Sust. Bde., 8th TSC, presents a folded American flag to the next of kin during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, July 23.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Terry, 45th Sust. Bde., 8th TSC, presents a folded American flag to the next of kin during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, July 23.

The Honolulu cemetery, which covers more than 116 acres, has a rich connection with members of the armed forces on the island dating back to World War II.

All branches have a chance to participate in funeral honors on a rotating basis. Typically, service members honor their respective branches.

Having been hand-selected by the command, the 45th Sust. Bde. detail meticulously rehearses and prepares its uniforms for every funeral to ensure it treats each family member with dignity and respect.

Blackwell participates specifically in the flag presentation portion of the honors during as many as three funerals a day. She joins her squad leader, Staff Sgt. Brandon Terry, in unfolding the flag. Then, Pvt. Justin Parker plays the traditional taps on the bugle.

Blackwell and Terry then respectfully refold the flag and humbly present it to the next of kin, often looking directly into eyes filled with tears.

Blackwell emphasized the importance of the experience for Soldiers like herself.

“I would recommend everyone volunteer for this, just to see how the families appreciate it. It humbles you as a Soldier,” Blackwell explained. “One day you could be here. I want to pay it forward.”

HONOLULU — Pvt. Justin Parker, bugler, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade, awaits his cue to play taps during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, July 23. (Photo by Spc. Erin Sherwood, 45th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade)

HONOLULU — Pvt. Justin Parker, bugler, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade, awaits his cue to play taps during a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, here, July 23. (Photo by Spc. Erin Sherwood, 45th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sust. Brigade)

Although the detail conducts the same ceremony at every funeral, each time provides its own unique experience through the family members it impacts, said Blackwell.

The detail members agreed that as they leave the cemetery every day, throughout the next three months, they’ll continue to feel a sense of mission accomplishment unlike any they’ve ever known … one that can only come with respectfully laying a fellow Soldier or family member to rest with honor.

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