Dozens rehearse for Inouye funeral services at Punchbowl
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sen. Daniel Inouye and his family wanted a low-key and brief ceremony for his funeral. And even though Sunday's final services are scheduled to last only one hour and 15 minutes, it's still involving dozens of people and complicated logistics.
All of those involved in the service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific spent Saturday morning rehearsing what they would do for real just 24 hours later, starting the 19-gun salute rendered by the 487th Field Artillery of the Hawaii Army National Guard. They'll perform the salute as the hearse carrying Inouye's casket arrives at cemetery entrance.
All five branches of the military are participating. "This is the greatest coordination ever of the military, the Department of Defense, the greater Honolulu community, the State Department, all the other government agencies that have come together," said cemetery director Gene Castagnetti.
During the rehearsal, the color guard members went through their paces; the military pallbearers worked with a rehearsal casket; the military band played parts of the songs they will perform -- all mindful that, as Castagnetti put it, they will only have one chance to get it right.
Even if Inouye wanted things to be low-key, organizers said the ceremony will give him the honor he deserves.
"Low-key for Senator Inouye? It doesn't match," said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota of the U.S. Army Pacific Command. "The many things that he's done for all his constituents in Hawaii and for all his military service -- there's going to be nothing low-key about this."
The event will also involve heightened security measures after the White House announced Saturday that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend. (Read about the increased measures here.) And as a result, very few member of the public will get a chance to pay their final respects in person.
According to organizers, everyone must be seated for the service. And right now, there are fewer than a thousand seats available. But those fortunate enough to attend will know that the participants have worked hard in this final tribute to the late senator.
"Heightened security is the order of the day," Castagnetti told the participants. "Yet, we have to perform a dignified memorial service for a great American."
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