- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A group of Alabama National Guard members were presented with a newly created state honor on Monday for ceremonies they perform during the funerals for fallen military veterans.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed Executive Order No. 45 creating the Alabama Honor Guard Ribbon and presented a group of uniformed guard members with the awards during a news conference and ceremony at the state Capitol.

“I’m a veteran myself and, you know, Alabama is a very patriotic state,” Bentley said after the ceremony, adding that about 470,000 veterans call Alabama home. “I’m proud to be their commander in chief. It’s just an honor for me to be a part of this and to have the authority to do it.”

The honor guard members are responsible for performing military ceremonies during funerals for eligible veterans when the services are requested by the veteran’s family. The ceremonies usually include the triangular folding and presentation of an American flag to the veteran’s next of kin, and the playing of “Taps,” a military bugle call played at the end of the funeral.

The ribbons are red with white and blue stripes on each end, “Which represents the freedoms that all those in uniform serve to protect,” said Maj. Gen. Perry Smith. They also feature a small triangle in the middle with stars to represent the triangular flag that is one of the many distinctions of a military funeral.

Bentley said he’s glad the State of Alabama will begin awarding ribbons for the contributions of guard members whose work had previously gone without recognition. The ribbons will also be awarded to past honor guard members who meet requirements for the recognition, he said. Retroactive awards will be offered to guard members who served dating back to Jan. 1, 2000.

National Guard members perform military honors at about 1,800 funerals across the country each year, Bentley and Smith said.

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