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Caisson soldiers respect the fallen

The final honor: The Old Guard Soldiers conduct Arlington funerals with decorum, respect

    The image is as tragic as it is iconic: A grieving widow or mother sobs and clutches Old Glory like a lifeline while a proud, decorated Soldier in dress blues and white gloves kneels and murmurs condolences “on behalf of a grateful nation.”

    Someday those words of gratitude might mean something to her, might make her proud instead of sad. But today, they are a cold comfort. The bereaved could equally be a husband, father, sibling, son or daughter”they are all alike in their devastation, in wondering how life can possibly go on. A loved one is gone, along with their dreams, hopes and plans for the future.

    Respect - Honor - Integrity: American Values

    It’s not easy for the Soldiers who conduct the funeral ceremonies either. Handing that flag over is “extraordinarily tough,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Hall of The Old Guard, who has had the responsibility numerous times, although the task is usually given to a military chaplain or flag officer. It’s also “an absolute, utter honor,” he continued”the very least the nation can do to honor the men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion.

    An honorable mission - to honor the fallen

    Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard’s unit designator), perform as many as six funerals a day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They serve as casket bearers, like Hall (who most recently was the memorial affairs noncommissioned officer in charge), members of the firing company or the honor guard and horse-riding caisson Soldiers. By the end of a two- or three-year tour in The Old Guard, it’s not uncommon for a Soldier to have performed 100 or more funerals for servicemembers, from veterans of World War II and Korea to young Soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    A mission of honor



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