Veterans Day

Serving on the funeral team

Nevada soldier says it’s an honor to serve the community

Sgt. Christina Aguilar of the Nevada Army National Guard presents a U.S. flag at a military funeral service at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Sgt. Christina Aguilar of the Nevada Army National Guard presents a U.S. flag at a military funeral service at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

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The soft breeze flapped the large U.S. flag overlooking the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery on an early autumn afternoon.
As the honor guard from the Nevada Veterans Coalition marched to the pavilion to post the colors, two soldiers stood silent at the back of the pavilion waiting for the ceremony to unfold.
Looking straight ahead with her eyes fixated on the narrator is Sgt. Christina Aguilar, one of the senior members of the Nevada Army National Guard’s Funeral Team, who begins to know more about the veterans who are being honored in an unaccompanied service. For one reason or another, either the family members couldn’t attend the ceremony or no survivors exist.
 “This job is such an honor,” said Aguilar after the October unaccompanied service. “I really enjoy doing this. Hopefully, I will get to do it for many more years.”
Other funerals include either a serviceman or woman from a Northern Nevada community and are attended by family and friends.

Steve Ranson/LVN
Nevada Army National Guard Sgt. Christina Aguilar salutes during a military service at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

A soldier in the Nevada Army National Guard for six years, the 2013 North Valleys High School graduate said being on the funeral team is different from any other military specialty.
“I really do serve the community in a way we don't get to do as traditional Guardsmen,” she said.
That service to the community is what called Aguilar to enlist in the Nevada Army National Guard. She originally enlisted because of the benefits for college, but after enlisting, she discovered how much she loves her two communities — that of the civilian world and the other with her fellow veterans.
When she is not involved at a military funeral service at Fernley or another cemetery, Aguilar deals with the administrative side of the ceremonies on a full-time basis.
During the actual funeral ceremony, the Guard’s ceremonial team consists of at least two soldiers or up to eight on most occasions. On smaller funerals, Aguilar and another soldier unfold and then refold the U.S. flag and present it to a family member. On larger funerals, the entire honor guard will take care of the casket.
Aguilar remembers the ceremonies, but there are those that resonate with her more than the others.
“So many stand out, but those that stand out the most are the ones closest to us,” Aguilar said. “We had guardsmen or other soldiers who died in action or sadly in other ways.”
Although Aguilar specifically didn’t mention “other ways,” the Nevada Army National Guard Funeral Team has conducted funerals for service members who have taken their own lives.
One of the most moving ceremonies Aguilar and the funeral team conducted occurred in early August 2019 when a World War II pilot was honored and then interred at the NNVMC. Lt. Lowell Twedt died on Oct. 20, 1944, when German anti-aircraft downed him and two other P-38J Lightning pilots from the 71st Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group near Bolanzo, Italy. Twedt received full military honors.
“That was a big ceremony for us, something we hadn’t done before,” Aguilar said. “For everything he (Twedt) had done, it was truly an honor.”
Aguilar said for any veteran’s funeral, it is important for the funeral team to conduct the ceremony with dignity and precision. After each ceremony, she said the team meets and reviews their participation in the funeral.
During her time in the Nevada Army National Guard, Aguilar has been assigned to two military police units and attended an investigation school. Now, on the civilian side of her life, she’s studying to become a nurse. When she has free time, Aguilar enjoys dancing, singing, snowboarding and hiking.
Aguilar said she also enjoys being a member of the Nevada Guard team.
“It’s very family like,” she said. “We look out for each other. We keep each other up.”


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