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NEWS | Nov. 24, 2021

Washington National Guard and Royal Malaysian Air Force honor fallen colleague in unique ceremony

By Joseph Siemandel

During the recent Washington and Malaysian airmen to airmen talks held at Camp Murray, a tragedy occurred when Royal Malaysian Air Force Col. Hasnol Abu Hassan died after sustaining a medical emergency. His sudden passing was a shock to his friends and family and forced the remaining members of the travel party and Hassan’s widow to make difficult and quick decisions.

“We needed to act and several members of the Washington Air National Guard team immediately stepped in to assist the Royal Malaysian Air Force team to handle all the necessary arrangements,” said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, Commander of the Washington Air National Guard.

The Malaysians think of death as part of a life cycle predestined by God. Malaysian Muslim funerals follow specific Islamic rites in accordance with Syariah or religious laws and are solemn and dignified affairs. The body of the deceased must be treated with honor and reverence and handled gently with utmost care at all times. The deceased must also be buried as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of their death. The flight back to Malaysia is approximately 20 hours, so the decision was made to perform the ceremony in Washington state.

With help from chaplains at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Washington Air National Guard headquarters arranged a ceremony for Hassan at the House of Mercy, an all-Muslim cemetery near Covington, Wash.

Word of his service spread and the Malaysian-American community gathered quickly, with more than 100 Malaysians from the Pacific Northwest attending the ceremony.

Back in Malaysia, members of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and his family began their morning watching the ceremony via a live stream.

“From coordinating the logistics of bringing the family to the US to expedited customs and immigration processing, to planning and executing an Islamic funeral with full military honors in Washington state, to live streaming the event back to Malaysia for the family and RMAF to witness, our team stepped in at a time of great need for our partners and helped bring both closure and dignity to a very tragic event,” said Welsh. “I couldn't be more proud of and thankful for this team. This event united two militaries and two countries for a few moments yesterday.”

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