MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- When a Marine dies, a select group of his brothers-in-arms stand ready to honor his commitment to God, Corps and country by ensuring he receives a proper Marine Corps burial.
The burial detail performs at funerals while the color guard represents the Marine Corps during parades, ceremonies and community events.
Throughout the past two years Albany Marines have sent the color guard and burial detail on a combined 252 missions. Each was done by Marines who volunteered their time to honor those who paved the way before them.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Bari Williams, the Marine Corps is the only branch of military service to give their men and women military burials regardless of the time they served in the uniform.
"Whether they served 30 years or one day, if they were a Marine, they still rate a proper burial," said Williams.
The burial detail here consists of 14 Marines who share the responsibilities of attending funerals and serving on the color guard. According to Williams, at least twice as many Marines are needed.
"We should have about 30 Marines on stand-by," said Williams. "I commend the Marines who are on it now. They work long hours sometimes, but I have received numerous letters of thanks for their flawless performances. They really do a great job."
The members of the detail are expected to be prepared at all times because they usually have only 48 hours notice. Team members practice an hour together each week.
Marines who get involved enjoy several benefits, said Williams. They receive a set of dress blue Alphas. They are also excused from certain kinds of duty, such as the 24-hour barracks duty.
Being part of the burial detail usually involves a one-year commitment, but some Marines involvement has lasted much longer, partly because few new members join, but mainly because those who participate take a great deal of pride in the duty.
Sgt. Jolanta Krempin has been on the color guard for four years and now serves on the burial detail as well. Cpls. Sebastien Spinard and Patrick Zierke have served on the color guard and burial detail for more than two years.
"I do it because it is an honor to provide our Marines the proper military funeral they deserve for serving our nation," said Sgt. Paige Francis, who has been on the burial detail for eight months. "Every detail is different, however there is always a feeling of pride when we know that the family appreciates us being there. We learn a lot of history from the families as to how that particular Marine has served in the Marine Corps and how much he or she has influenced the life of the family."
Lance Cpl. Darrell Stewart, who has done 23 burials, said the only real drawback to being a part of the detail is that so few people have signed up that it takes a lot of time. But he added that the time is well spent.
"I think what we do brings some closure for some of the family members," said Stewart. "It helps them know that they are part of our [Marine Corps] family too."
As a part of the detail or color guard, Marines receive a certificate of commendation and many receive a Navy Achievement Medal for their services.
According to Francis, the color guard/burial detail is always looking for volunteers.
"If anyone is interested in becoming a part of the team, they will need to go through the proper channels (chain of command) for approval to join," said Francis.