ALPENA -An honor guard funeral for a fallen law enforcement officer or firefighter is an emotional event for the survivors as well as the men and women who take part in the ceremony that honors their comrade.
A special four day honor guard training class is being held in Alpena with 57 police and firefighter are learning the ins and outs of the procedures of the memorial, but also how to assist the surviving members of the fallen's family. The course has attracted first responders from all over the state and will be capped off with a full mock funeral that actual family members who have lost loved ones take part in. Lead instructor Randy Kantner said the class is comprised of police and firefighters who volunteer to learn intricacies so they can take part in a full honor guard funeral.
"The students are going to learn all of the protocols and moves and information they will need to perform honor guard duty," Kantner said. "They will also learn some color guard work, so they can participate in parades, color posting ceremonies and things that don't involve a funeral, but unfortunately what the honor guard will be used for is funerals."
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
A group of volunteer police officers and firefighters take part in an honor guard training class being held this week at the APlex in Alpena. The course will teach the proper procedures of honor guard funerals and also color guard events. The class will be capped off with a mock “funeral” that will take place on Friday.
Kantner said an honor guard funeral is an emotional experience but because of its seriousness it is important to control the emotions and focus on the tribute.
"It is a great honor, but it is tough sometimes, especially if it is someone you know or have worked with," Kantner said. "Some people just can't do it. When you do honor guard work you can have emotions, you just can't show them. It is a tough week when your talking about somebody going down in the line of duty and preparing for the funeral. It gets to you because you know they were a cop or firefighter just like you."
Each class during the "funeral" a family from someone killed while on duty is selected to take part to make it as real as possible. Others are asked to come to speak and share their experience with the trainees as well. On Friday the family of Carl Darling, who was killed by gunfire in May 1986 in Ostego County, will serve as the survivors during the service. Kantner said the exercise pays attention to every last detail and mimics an actual funeral as close as possible.
"We start at a church, receive the casket, just like we would for a service and there will be a chaplain or somebody from the clergy involved to do a service," Kantner said. "We move to the cemetery and do the grave side service. To give it the realism we bring in actual survivors and honor them right down to the presentation of a flag."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com