Minot Air Force Base Honor Guard funeral triples due to COVID-19 pandemic
Members of the Honor Guard devote themselves to the practice once a week so that they can render honors at military events such as retreats and funerals. In order for members to have the opportunity to attend the practice, the practice takes place within four hours. (Illustration by Ashley N. Avecilla / US Air Force)
MINOT AIR BASE, ND – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the guard of honor at Minot Air Force Base in terms of the number of funerals these male and female volunteers have paid tribute to military.
From late 2019 to date, members of the Minot Air Base Honor Guard have paid military honors at 282 funerals in mid-November, according to Staff Sgt. Richard Cabak.
That’s almost three times as many funerals as the honor guard in a year. âUsually it averages around 100,â Cabak said.
Being a member of this special group is voluntary. Each member also has full-time military employment. In his regular job with the Air Force, Cabak is a maintenance management analyst with 5 Maintenance Group. With the guard of honor of Minot AFB, Cabak is the secondary assistant to the non-commissioned officer in charge of the guard of honor, Tech. Sgt. Barry Bartlett, and handles various details for special projects.
Each member of the honor guard is an active-duty air force member in good standing, the Minot Daily News reported.
Members of the honor guard train so that everyone is ready for their duties if someone else cannot.
âFor example, yesterday we had a funeral for seven men, but each person in that detail had to know the movements of the person next to them and had to be able to continue just in case we had a problem that arose when one The schedule may have changed or something may have broken off and this person may need to fill this position. So it’s ideal for us to make sure there is as much cross-training as possible, âCabak said in an October 29 interview.
Currently, the guard of honor has 10 to 20 members. Cabak said the number of honor guard members varies from month to month due to people getting new assignments and moving to other bases etc. âBut typically 10 to 20 people are available with the honor guard,â he said.
The volunteers are trained at the Minot base for the guard of honor.
Cabak said they sometimes had volunteers who served as honor guards at other bases. âIt’s actually a godsend for us because it lightens our load a bit. It’s a valuable experience, especially when you have a detail when you have brand new people. It’s good to have experience in this, âhe said.
Members of the Minot Air Base Honor Guard have a large operating territory to provide their services when called upon.
Members cover more than three-quarters of North Dakota. They also traveled out of state to provide funeral services.
âIn fact, we cover even more than that,â Cabak said, pointing to a map on the wall of the Honor Guard building showing the territory they cover. âThis is our current area of ââoperation, but we have contingents where, like this pink area covered by Grand Forks, we will often be called upon to do so due to issues that may arise in Grand Forks. “
The honor guard has also been called to Montana for a funeral.
âI pretty much went through North Dakota, one to Minnesota. I haven’t done Montana yet. I think we’ve had a few in South Dakota as well, âhe said.
âIf we’re called or bugged to go, that’s what we do,â he added.
The honor guard has a budget to pay its expenses.
Normally, Cabak said a funeral home would contact them about the presentation of military honors during a service. “Once they are informed that the deceased is a former member of the Air Force, then they contact us,” he said. Usually they have three or four days before they go to a funeral.
Members of the Honor Guard are split between some serving even months and others serving odd months. “If, for example, you have a lot of people who are unable to do this or who are beyond our capacity for an even month, then (someone) an odd month will be called upon to come and help if need be.” , did he declare. noted.
Often the Minot AFB Honor Guard is called upon to render military honors during services held at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, south of Mandan.
âI would say at least probably once a week,â Cabak said.
Usually, members of the honor guard do not know the deceased or their family members.
“In many ways it’s very well formulated in this regimented formation, so you know, yeah, it’s a deceased person, yeah, they’re former Air Force members, and yeah, we don’t know not really their name. But they still wore the same uniform as you. So there’s this aspect where it’s the same, âCabak said.
In addition to funerals, the Minot AFB Honor Guard holds color ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, and occasionally participates in state events such as the North Dakota State Fair Parade in Minot.
But the funeral takes priority.
âAlways,â Cabak said. âWe are mandated by Congress to do this. “
This year, the honor guard has also held around 100 color (flag) ceremonies since events resumed (due to COVID-19), Cabak said.
Recently, the honor guard moved to another building on the base so that they could conduct their training. âIt’s a much better training ground for us,â said Cabak. âWe’re really happy where we are. “
Cabak said there were “several different reasons” he was involved in the Minot AFB honor guard. Mainly, he said he was interested in history and noted a letter Abraham Lincoln wrote to a Miss Bixby in 1864.
âI think the main reason is probably that I’m interested in the story,â Cabak said. He referred to the letter of consolation that President Abraham Lincoln sent to a woman who allegedly lost five sons during the Civil War.
âBy reading this you really understand what military service is. It’s a sacrifice and we are the last official looking face the family is likely to see. The result is that we want to make sure that they are understood that we know their sacrifice. We want to honor it properly, âCabak said.