MARINE CORPS LOGISTIC BASE ALBANY, GA -- A gray sky and dark clouds loom over a peaceful graveyard foreshadowing the event that is about to take place. Tears pour as the muffled sound of a spouse crying on the shoulder of a family member underscored the finality of the occasion.
Mourners wear solemn expressions that show their sadness at a fallen Marine's funeral. But the Marines standing behind a row of gravestones hold their heads held high with pride upon their young faces.
The eight members of the burial detail were requested to serve at the burial by the family members of a Marine who has been called to guard the pearly gates. These Marines do not complain about giving up a Sunday morning when they could still be sound asleep, tucked comfortably in their beds. These Marines are proud to serve at a fellow Marine's funeral, because in their hearts they know one day they will be the ones lying in a cold grave.
After the priest's final prayer, Marines standing over the raised coffin pickup the national colors and clench it tightly with their white-gloved hands. They begin to fold the flag with precision, constantly keeping it stretched and free of wrinkles. While the flag is being folded the bone chilling sound of taps being played by a bugler echoes through the graveyard. Once the flag is folded into a triangle and the bugler has concluded taps, the flag presenter holds the national ensign close to his chest with two hands.
The rest of the detail marches off to their rifles where they fire a 21-shot volley. The silence of the still morning air is broken by the crack of rifle fire. The detail commander then picks up three expended rounds and tucks them into the outer fold of the flag. The flag presenter marches to the widow or next of kin of the deceased Marine and respectfully hands over the colors. The flag is presented to the weeping individual to show the nation?s deep gratitude to those who have faithfully defended the country's ideals.
Friends and family members of the fallen warrior are not the only ones who have to fight their emotions, said Cpl. LaMadrae K. Brown, who has been in the MCLB honor guard for more than two years. He admits to sometimes shedding a tear during a ceremony, especially when the bugler trumpets taps.
"Every member of the detail, has cried at one time or another during a burial," said Brown. "There are many emotions present. Sometimes you think about what it would be like to be in that situation [laying in the casket]."
But sadness is not the only emotion that is going through a Marine's mind during a burial. A sense of pride flows through his veins, Brown said. He feels honored every time he puts on his dress blue uniform and carries the casket during a funeral service.
"It's very symbolic because the family thinks enough of Marines," said Brown, "not to have one of their friends or family members to carry the casket. But have you carry it, as a United States Marine."
Not every funeral the Albany Marine Burial Detail attends is a Marine's, but they still give their best presentation, said Brown. The detail has accompanied Army and Navy service members' funerals willingly, because sometimes the location is too far for a certain base to provide a burial detail.
The burial detail here performs 50-60 funerals per year, said Sgt. Anthony Smith, non-commissioned officer in charge of the burial detail. The 10 marines on the burial detail put a lot of time and effort into making the ceremony picture-perfect. The Marines practice once or twice a week and are always on call. Death can sink its icy hands into a victim at any time. Without warning the detail has to always be ready.
"For most people this is the last impression they will have of the Marine Corps and I want to help make it a memorable one," said Cpl. Brown.
Brown encourages other Marines to become members of the burial detail because of the honor and pride they will feel, he
"It is important for Marines to take part in this time-honored tradition," said Smith. "It shows respect to the fallen Marines who have paved the way for us and the Corps."
Marines interested in joining the burial detail can call Smith at 639-6460.