Photo Information

Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., body bearers practice firing cannons to "Ode to Joy" for an Evening Parade. May 13, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chi Nguyen/ Released)

Photo by Cpl Chi Nguyen

The Last to Let You Down

18 May 2015 | Cpl. Chi Nguyen Marine Barracks

Among the sea of towering, six-foot tall, slender-built Marines in the marching companies at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., there is a small, select group that easily stand out in formation - the body bearers of Bravo Company.


The body bearers have the solemn and honorable duty of laying their brethren to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and other locations throughout the National Capital Region.


"The primary mission of the body bearers is to perform flawless funerals for the Marines and Marine family members at Arlington National Cemetery," said Lance Cpl. Michael Ryder, guide, body bearer platoon, B Co.


Like all Marines in the two marching companies, the body bearers are selected from the School of Infantry based on height, but unlike their comrades, they have to pass a series of initial strength tests to make the cut.


Recently, due to the selective qualifications for recruiting potential Marines, the body bearer billet has opened up to not only new SOI graduates, but infantry Marines throughout the fleet.


Once a selectee passes the initial strength test, consisting of ten repetitions of a 250-pound bench press, 150-pound military press, 135-pound arm curl and 315-pound squat, that Marine must attend Ceremonial Drill School at the Barracks. The training from start to finish may take up to six months, but at the end, all the hard work is worth the title, "body bearer."


On a daily basis the body bearers train rigorously to maintain military bearing under the stress and weight of the casket. The Marines take their training seriously, because they truly understand the solemn mission at hand.


"Our determination is to make sure [the family and friends] have the perfect, absolutely perfect, funeral for their son, daughter, father, mother; whoever it may be," said Cpl. John White, body bearer, B Co. It's [that family's] worst day, so we make sure it's what they deserve every time."


Being a body bearer mentally changes the Marine, instilling a heightened sense of duty, honor, and esprit de corps. They mature from their experiences.


 "We never think for a second, that we don't want to do what we do as far as body bearers go," said White. "We take intense pride in doing funerals, and we take intense pride in what we do. It physically, mentally and spiritually hurts us when we mess up."


Body bearers provide support for dozens of standard and full honors funerals per week. They also can be called upon to conduct funerals for congressmen, senators and joint service funerals said Ryder.


The Marines of the body bearer platoon truly live up to their motto, "The Last to Let you Down."