Two-person honor escorts mandated for fallen Marines
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, April 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — A two-person honor guard will be on the airport tarmac to greet the casket of every Marine killed in action, under a new policy announced by the service this week.

Previously, every coffin was assigned one escort to accompany the fallen servicemembers to their final resting places.

But in a servicewide message sent out Monday, officials said all future arrivals would be met by at minimum two Marines: the escort and a casualty assistance calls officer, preferably one stationed near the airport.

The change was prompted by an order from Pentagon officials in February for all services to “render appropriate honors” for all deceased troops. That order was prompted by a still-ongoing congressional investigation into the transport and treatment of the coffins, which arose from complaints from families about military procedures.

Bryan Driver, spokesman for the Marines personnel and family readiness division, said all coffins should receive the new honor guard treatment starting this month.

Marine officials have also asked local commanders to make arrangements for retired Marines and local civic groups to take part in welcoming ceremonies for the caskets, if they are available.

“We want to do the right thing for these Marines,” Driver said. “One of the routes we have to do that is to take advantage of what the community is offering.”

The new order does not outline any changes in the transport of the servicemembers’ bodies, another point of contention between Congress and the Defense Department. Currently, the deceased troops are sent home in the cargo holds of civilian airlines rather than military aircraft. Members of Congress have proposed mandating the use of military vehicles for the task, but defense officials have said noncompetition directives prohibit them from not using commercially available services.

An Army spokesman said they have Army has no immediate plans to change theirits policy of using only one escort to guide the casket to its final resting place.

The Army has provided an honor guard at all funeral services to pay respects to the fallen soldiers then.