Significant fewer funeral honors conducted by NY National Guard during 2020 due to COVID-19

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Spc. Austin Dycha and Sgt. Nikole Clark, members of the New York National Guard Military Funeral Honors Team, drape the flag of the United States over the casket of U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. Raymond Kegler, at his funeral in Lackawanna, New York, May 14. Dycha and Clark wore cloth face masks as part of precautions being used during military funerals to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Army National Guard Photo by Capt. Avery Schneider)

LATHAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — Due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions on funeral services, honors provided by the National Guard have been limited.

The New York Army and Air National Guard has reported that throughout 2020, the team has provided over 2,000 fewer military funeral services, compared to 2019.

According to a 2000 federal law, former members of the U.S. military who served on active duty or the reserves and did not receive a dishonorable discharge are eligible for military funeral honors. Typically, these honors must include the folding and presenting of an American flag to the members survivors and the playing of taps.

However, New York Army National Guard’s Military Funeral Honors Program Coordinator Peter Moran stated that during 2020, due to restrictions on the number of funeral attendees early in the pandemic, and many family choosing not to hold a formal burial, a signifiant decline in these funeral honors were reported. Additionally, a decision led by the Veterans Administration to discontinue graveside services and military funeral honors at National Cemeteries also contributed.

The New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs reported that compared to 2019, 2,171 less funeral honors were conducted by the New York National Guard.

Moran reported that the New York Army National Guard’s eight Military Funeral Honors offices pm average conducts 700 funerals each month.

But in 2020, Moran stated that March there were 513 funeral missions, which declined to 229 in April, 337 in May and 511 in June.

As of December 23, the New York Army National Guard had provided honors for 7,005 families and the team is expected to conduct 145 additional services by December, 31, 2021. The Air Force National Guard performed 1,639 funeral services and expects to provide an additional 46 honors before the new year.

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