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Honor Guard 101: Retiree Funerals

Honor Guard 101: Retiree Funerals

Photo courtesy: Lt. Ken Baine

Lt. Ken Baine / Fairfax County Police Department

Paying last respects to the ones who wore the uniform before us is one the highest honors the Fairfax County Police Department Honor Guard carries out as team members. I want to discuss what we do to render honors to a fallen or retired officer at the time of their viewing. In this article I will discuss the topic of casket guards.

We provide casket guards during the viewing at the family’s request. One team member is posted at each end of the casket and they rotate every 20 minutes. In a one-hour period we relieve our casket guards three times. If you go beyond 20 minutes, you risk the chance of your team members falling out. If you rotate your team members sooner, you draw too much attention to the honor guard. You do not want to take away from the fallen officer’s or retiree’s viewing by clearing the aisle four to six times an hour so your team members can be changed.

Arrive early and do a careful inspection if the officer is being buried in their uniform. Our team members do a complete inspection before the family arrives to make sure the funeral director has all pins properly placed. You will also need to make sure there are no flower arrangements too close to the casket. Your team members will need a space to stand guard during the viewing. We also post our agency flag next to the visitor sign in book.

The Fairfax County Police Department provides a United States flag for each officer’s casket. The United States Flag Code states that anyone can have the flag on their casket. The only stipulation is that an honorably discharged veteran of the armed forces is provided a flag free by the Department of Veterans Affairs. We always use the same company’s brand of national flags for our officer’s funerals. We keep them pressed and on hangers and when an officer’s family requests a flag on their loved one’s casket, we provide the funeral home with one of ours. Believe it or not all national casket flags fold the same. That is why we use the same brand of flags for every funeral. If the family has requested a spray be placed on the casket you will not be able to display a national flag on the casket too. In those cases we place a folded national flag next to the casket.

It is important to have a liaison with your retirees. Our department has close to 600 retirees and an active retirees’ association. I am on their e-mail list and get current updates on retirees who may be in failing health. As the honor guard commander, I find it helpful to know that your team may be needed for a funeral. On average we are requested for five to 10 retiree funerals a year.

It is important to have a good working relationship with the funeral director doing your officer’s service. Reach out to him/her before the viewing and explain to them what they can expect. Some may have never experienced a police funeral before. Provide them with your contact information so they can contact you directly in the event something comes up or a question arises. Ask the funeral director for a room in the funeral home for your team members to decompress during the viewing.

This article is the second in a series of articles by Lt. Ken Baine covering all aspects of running a police honor guard and detailing each honor given at a line-of-duty funeral.


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  • Bronzestarribbon_max50

    csiguy

    over 4 years ago

    882 Comments

    Good article and informative as our honor guard does funerals, but only if the family requests us. We do not do too many so I value this and all information for HG Procedures and protacol. Thanks...

  • Dsc_3801_max160_1__max50

    smatthews

    over 5 years ago

    160 Comments

    good article

  • Me_2004_max50

    BSALLEN305

    over 5 years ago

    22 Comments

    AMNY THANKS TO YOU AND ALL WHO SERVE THIS GREAT HONOR, TO STAND BY OUR FALLEN BROTHERS AND SISTERS WEATHER ITS DURING THEIR SERVICE YEARS OR THEIR RETIERED YEARS THEY ALL THE HONOR WE CAN GIVE , HAVING LOST TWO CLOSE FRIENDS IN THE LINE OF DUTY AND MY FATHER AND UNCLE AFTER RETIREMENT ITS A GREAT FEELING TO KNOW THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN THANKS AND KEEP UP THE GREAT SERVICE

  • Dogs_max50

    JPSarge

    almost 6 years ago

    412 Comments

    Many thanks, Lt., for this article. My Dad had our Dept's honor guard at his funeral and they were a great source of comfort and pride. He was also a military veteran. The precision and decorum practiced by each member of the team was really appreciated.

  • Vivian_alone_max50

    fultonfinest1220

    almost 6 years ago

    288 Comments

    I have already found some new information after reading this article. Thnx a lot.

  • S1590902087_30044176_5699968_max50

    pepper50

    about 6 years ago

    160 Comments

    A 10-8 UNIT!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BLUEOFWATER

    over 6 years ago

    222 Comments

    ONE LUV

  • Nunst042_max50

    Posse44

    over 6 years ago

    3482 Comments

    Another great article.

  • Me_and_partner_rex_max50

    BCSD4558

    over 6 years ago

    104 Comments

    I give you guys a lot of respect it is a very hard job and your team does it very professionally with dignity, companion, and respect. My son has to do a similar detail with the US Army (He is a Ranger).
    God Bless

  • Me_and_partner_rex_max50

    BCSD4558

    over 6 years ago

    104 Comments

    I give you guys a lot of respect it is a very hard job and your team does it very professionally with dignity, companion, and respect. My son has to do a similar detail with the US Army (He is a Ranger).
    God Bless

  • Dscn0135_max50

    pnevlud

    over 6 years ago

    68 Comments

    Great artical and thank you for all of the hard work you put into making your honor guards one of the best teams around the nation. I look forward to your next artical. Be safe out there!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    CopOnBoard

    over 6 years ago

    170 Comments

    thanks Lt. Baine for such a wonderful over view of this matter it was presented very well. Will be looking for the next installment. Thank you again for offering such a comfort at such a hard time in the families life. You make things even easier, For all that you and your guys provide during such a rough time.

  • Jake_max50

    mcp690

    over 6 years ago

    110 Comments

    Excellent article, Lt. A much needed, but sometimes overlooked aspect of our jobs. Providing this helps not only attract new members to the Honor Guard, but establishes a set of guidlines so nobody has to "wing it" when the unthinkable befalls another of our extended family. And speaking of families, see you at Reagan National for the pick-up details! I'll be there again this year and wouldn't have it any other way. Looking forward to another Police Week and your next article. Be safe brother.

  • Gizmo_max50

    Maguai

    over 6 years ago

    372 Comments

    Thanks for your articles. I look forward to your next installment. They give a new perspecitive to Honor Guard activities as well as validate the similarities bewteen different agency/jurisdiction Honor Guard groups. Thank you for your service and for sharing this valuable information, to help us better serve our officers, their families and the community.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 6 years ago

    Lt. Baine TY for your Officers service and the comfort that you give those families and the pride that is in all Officers that serve everyday...I love the article....

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