On a recent breezy morning, another funeral took place at Miramar National Cemetery. As the flag was being folded by soldiers from the U.S. Army Honor Guard and “Taps” was being played by a Marine bugler, there was no sound of crying from the family and friends of Navy veteran Marian Jones. In fact, there were no family or friends.
As one of our nation’s veterans was laid to rest, it might have gone totally unnoticed were it not for two groups present that morning: one on a duty assignment and the other out of a sense of obligation. Soldiers from the honor guard were present to provide full military honors, in compliance with federal law; the eight other individuals were all volunteers.
Regardless of the fact that neither family nor friends were in attendance, the soldiers performed their duty superbly. Their uniforms crisp and smart, with ribbons and badges catching the early-morning sun, they marched into position. On command, the rifle salute rang out across the landscape, followed by the command to present arms.
At that point, the eight volunteers — veterans all — also came to the position of attention. Some rendered the hand salute as the others held American flags at the position of present arms.
Members of the honor guard then folded an American flag, which by protocol is presented to the next of kin of the deceased.
One of the volunteers, symbolically representing the family of the Navy veteran, received the folded flag from the commander of the honor guard. Then each of the volunteers paused to touch the folded flag, in a small way connecting with the soldier whom they had never met.
As the short ceremony concluded, the only sounds were of muted commands, the honor guard marching away, flags fluttering in the breeze, and lanyards tapping against the flagpoles.