From Stetsons and sabers to horses and spurs, the 1st Cavalry Division is instilled with a rich history and chock-full of tradition. And honoring the fallen is no exception.
It was with this tradition in mind that nine troopers from the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, took on the three-month mission of executing funeral honors for Fort Hood.
The troop’s 1st Sgt. Chris Ausbun chose Staff Sgts. Harry Wise and Luke Himmelreich to find the right soldiers for the honor.
“They don’t look at it like a detail, they look at it as an honor. ... They take pride in it,” Ausbun said.
Once Wise and Himmelreich selected members, the small team began training.
“It’s everyday, all day, us going through it ... until everyone has it down and perfect,” Himmelreich said.
Throughout the training, the team learned several tasks to maintain the tradition and meaning behind each detail.
For instance, the United States flag, is to cover the closed casket with the union blue field over the left shoulder of the deceased, signifying the flag’s embrace of the deceased who defended the flag.
Once the funeral service concludes, six to eight soldiers of the funeral detail team, wearing their dress uniforms, walk in a straight line and in-step toward the casket. They then split into two lines of threes or fours and surround the casket, preparing to carry it to the hearse.
“During the ceremony, you’re so concentrated on making sure everything is done to standard, and that’s the majority of your thoughts,” Himmelreich said. “I tell the guys to try and keep the emotions suppressed and be as professional as possible.”
Silence typically fills the cemetery during the 21-gun salute, the soldiers said.
Next, the command of “Present Arms,” is given and a lone bugler begins taps.
“You think about doing a good job, because the family deserves it,” Russo said.
Seven members of the team surround the casket, three on each side and the officer-in-charge stands at the head. The U.S. flag draping the casket is then lifted by six soldiers and pulled taut before folding it to present to the family.
“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life,” Russo said.