By Jeffrey Osborn
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A military funeral consists of a number of ceremonial events including the firing of three rifle volleys, the playing of “Taps” on a bugle, and the folding and presentation of the United States flag to the veteran’s next of kin.
Traditionally, funeral honors for veterans have been carried out by members of the military, but a small group of volunteers are working to show that those who haven’t served can still show appreciation to veterans. An organization known as the United States Volunteers–Joint Services Command (USV-JSC) gives civilians who wish to show their respect to American veterans a way to do so. Members of the USV-JSC help to provide funeral honors for veterans.
Two volunteer units serve the greater Northwest under the 10th Regional Command, the 101st Brigade Coordination Team (BCT) commanded by Lt. Col. Ben Tran, which oversees operations in Washington, and the 102nd BCT commanded by Maj. Anh D. Quach, which organizes operations in Oregon.
Lt. Col. Tran is an immigrant from South Vietnam who fought alongside U.S. soldiers and feels he owes them much for their service during the Vietnam War.
“We have to do something to show our appreciation [for] the American people, especially veterans for their service in fighting for our freedom,” said Lt. Col. Tran.
Sgt. Greg White, of the United States Army, explains the importance of ceremony regardless of whether family members are present. “In the military, we’re family. That man that’s next to me, he’s my brother for the hour or two we’re out of the wire, and if I see a stranger out there in uniform and he needs help, he’s my brother, too. Ceremony is just a way of showing respect to your fallen brothers. These guys giving honors even when no one else is there to be with the fallen? That’s moving. That really shows they care and that brotherhood doesn’t die.”
The 10th Regional Command is commanded by Lt. Col. Ai Bac Nguyen.
“The only difference between us and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans of America, is the requirement that you have to be a veteran,” said Nguyen. “The United States Volunteers-Joint Services Command does not require you to be a veteran. You can be a civilian and have no military background. We can recruit you, and you can volunteer, and then we can train you so that you can perform full military honors for veterans locally and nationally.”
Lt. Col. Nguyen is a veteran and has a deep connection with veterans in the United States “I’m a South Vietnam veteran, and I’m also a United States Marine Corps veteran. When I came to the United States back in 1975, I felt I owed U.S. veterans a great deal since they came and served in my homeland during the Vietnam War.”
“I have been doing this, officially with the United States Volunteers-Joint Services Command, for two years, but before that, for four or five years, I just did it on my own and in a circle. I have a group of veterans locally that I know; We don’t belong to anyone, but when we have a veteran pass away and nobody’s around, we call each other [to] go to the funeral home, and [we] go to the cemetery to give them the final salute.”
In September 2011, the 101st BCT received accreditation from the Washington Army National Guard as an authorized provider of military funeral honors, and it also became part of an honor guard team at the Tahoma National Cemetery. Last month, the team celebrated its third anniversary.
With its motto “Boots on Graves,” the 101st BCT wants to ensure that all veterans receive a proper funeral service.
“We will help wherever they need [us]. We can come by the cemetery for any veteran that passes away. Just call us or e-mail us or call the veterans services so they can contact us, and we can go out and provide our service,” said Lt. Col. Tran.
Over the past three years, the American Legion Post 79 in Snoqualmie has sponsored and trained the United States Volunteers. With the dwindling number of older U.S. veterans, many of whom are in their late 80s, the 101st BCT has filled the ranks.
“We all owe our veterans in one way or another, and we need to do what we can to pay them back,” Lt. Col. Nguyen added. (end)
The 10th Regional Command, 101st BCT, and 102nd BCT are currently seeking volunteers. For more information on the United States Volunteers and information on how to volunteer, visit www.usvjsc.org.
Jeffrey Osborn can be reached at email@example.com.