Honor With Dignity Air National Guard Item Display
NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, NY — April 5 is Gold Star Spouses Day, a day of honor recognizing the spouses of active-duty military personnel who “made the ultimate sacrifice” and were killed in combat.
Originally called Gold Star Wives Day when it was established in 1945, the day of commemoration is now known as Gold Star Spouses Day, although some still use the names interchangeably.
The Gold Star is a symbol of loss from World War I. In 1947, Congress authorized the design, manufacture, and distribution of the official Gold Star Lapel Button, a symbol worn by members of the United States Armed Forces who lost their lives in war and armed conflicts.
Lawmakers recently introduced the new Gold Star Families Day Act, which would make the last Monday in September — just under six weeks before Veterans Day — a federal holiday to recognize families who lost a loved one while serving in the military.
Before the new holiday can become law, the legislation must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Here in Niagara, a unique team of individuals from the US Air Force Reserve’s 914th Air Refueling Wing and the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Attack Wing honor the fallen who have served or made the ultimate sacrifice.
According to Master Sgt. Ryan Snyder, Niagara Falls Base Honor Guard Superintendent, most Gold Star/spouse burial details are managed by the McGuire Air Force Base Honor Guard, located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
“We support them, usually with a color team, because an active duty funeral can have up to 20 Ceremonial Guardsmen,” Snyder said. “We currently have 5 full-time members and almost 40 part-time members. Our team consists of both guard and reserve personnel and we’re always looking to add more members,” said Snyder.
When asked what the difference in honors was between war-related and veteran or pensioner burials, Snyder explained, “If a member exists because of a combat-related incident, they would be entitled to full military honors since it would be by command. This includes coffin carrying, a color team, three-volley salute, playing taps, and folding and presenting the flag to next of kin.”
He added, “A veteran who has served honorably is given a team of two. This includes playing taps and folding and handing the flag to the next of kin. Up to seven members may be commissioned with military honors for a retiree. It offers a gun salute in addition to playing taps and folding and handing the flag to the next of kin.”
The 21-gun salute is actually a common misnomer. It is used in honoring fallen presidents and in ceremonies for chiefs of foreign nations, as well as on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Presidents Day. This salute is fired from 21 artillery guns and is usually performed by the army.
“The Honor Guard salutes fallen warriors (retired or active duty) with three volleys. This team of three to seven airmen armed with M-14 rifles is known as the Firing Party. This will generate between nine and 21 reports depending on the number of airmen involved,” Snyder said.
Funerals can be a very emotional event for everyone involved, but according to Snyder, “We always try to remain professional, regardless of the type of ceremony. Each of us has our own way of dealing with emotions and pulling up the mental curtain to block what we do every day,” he said.
Last year, the 914./107. Honor Guard 489 military funeral honors by. They cover a 21-county jurisdiction that includes all of western and some parts of central New York and northern Pennsylvania.