NEWS | Feb. 11, 2022

Navy Reserve Center Riverside Funeral Honor Guard Answers the Call

By Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Elizabeth Mendez, Navy Reserve Center Riverside

Navy Reserve Center (NRC) Riverside Funeral Honor Guard’s mission is to be the link between the surviving family members, the deceased, and the U.S. Navy. The funeral honor guard has not missed a funeral service in over 10 years and continues to be the most reliable funeral honor guard in the U.S. Navy’s Southwest Region.

Each member of the NRC team is responsible, professional, and has outstanding military bearing. They are proud to serve and they are here to support family members across the world in their time of need.
 
"Providing funeral honors to local families and friends that have been left behind by our fallen shipmates is one of our main missions," said Cmdr. Christian Dumlao, NRC Riverside Commanding Officer. "We consider it an honor and a privilege to provide this service and we take this job very seriously. It's the least we can do four our brothers and sisters in arms who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our great nation." 
 
The funeral honor guard consists of 27 members supporting funerals across San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Each member is qualified to render proper military honors, a duty which includes: leading the detail as officer in charge or petty officer in charge; serving as pall bearer for plane-side honors; sounding Taps as bugler; folding the U.S. flag; and serving as presentation officer.

The team arrives on site 30-45 minutes before each service to liaise and coordinate with family members, funeral directors and other military members to guarantee a flawless ceremony. The funeral honor guard particpates in an average of 100 funeral services per month, and in 2021 the team completed over 1,000 services.
 
“The best thing about funeral honor guard is the opportunity to sound Taps for our veterans," said Capt Phong Vu, who serves as NRC Riverside Presentation Officer. "It's an honor and proud moment to afford the opportunity to sound Taps and salute their heroic sacrifice to our great nation. Everything is done to the highest military standard. Uniforms must be clean and surpass standards. Rehearsal and practice make perfect. Military customs and the wishes of the next of kin are the foundations of our ceremonies.” 
 
One of the team's more memorable services in 2021 was for Signalman 1st Class Eugene Skaggs, who served aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of Skaggs and 428 of his USS Oklahoma Shipmates.

Early last year, Skaggs' remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and disinterred from the from one of the 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, for transfer to Riverside, Calif., to be laid to a dignified, final rest.

The NRC Riverside Funeral Honor Guard supported his arrival at the Ontario, Calif., airport with plane side honors and rendered full military honors at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif. on Aug. 13, 2021. The Funeral Honor Guard was honored to be trusted with the solemn responsibility of bringing home a fallen Shipmate who had served honorably and faithfully.
 
“I joined the funeral honors team in 2017, as a junior Sailor and it was a decision that I would recommend to any Sailor regardless of rank or experience," said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Jose Ruiz. "In my tenure with the team, I have been exposed to a plethora of situations that have done nothing but progress me further and have improved my capabilities as a professional, a Sailor, a leader, and a person in general. As I have reached a position in my career where I now guide junior Sailors, I often recommend participation in the funeral honor guard. Sailors can gain valuable insight while at the same time serving and honoring those who came before us, who wore the uniform we are all so proud to wear."
 
There is no end date to the NRC Funeral Honor Guard mission. The funeral honor guard will always be ready and standing by to support — anytime, anywhere.
 
“It is one of my greatest honors to serve alongside my Shipmates to give these families peace of mind after their loved ones have passed," said Cryptologic Technician Technical Seaman Payton Belle. "I love being able to work closely with my teammates who have been in longer than I have. Being a part of this team is one of the best choices I’ve made.” 
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