Academy Ladies pay honors to families at memorial services

  • Published
  • By Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Call them the Academy Ladies ... plus one.

A group of women -- and one gentleman -- began in October 2011 to represent Air Force families at funeral and memorial services held here, much as the Arlington Ladies have done at Arlington National Cemetery since the 1940s.

"General Gould and his wife saw that the concept for Arlington Ladies was a good one," said Nicole Harrison Inabinet, the Academy Ladies' chairwoman, referring to Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Paula Gould. "They brought it here and introduced it to us."

The group mirrors the Arlington Ladies in both genesis and purpose. Set up through the Academy Spouses' Club, the Academy Ladies' mission is to ensure no service member or family member is ever buried alone, said Inabinet, who is married to Master Sgt. Troy Inabinet, the 10th Medical Group's section chief for cadet physical therapy.

"Anyone who's eligible to be buried in the Academy Cemetery, we go to represent," she explained. "We try to have at least two representatives at each funeral. After Taps is rendered and the 21-gun salute, and after the flag is presented to the next of kin, we go forward and present a condolence card with personalized words."

The Ladies agreed they would start the program Nov. 1, 2011. Three funerals were scheduled for Nov. 4.

"They attended all three," said Janet Edwards, the Academy's Mortuary Affairs officer.

The Ladies receive notices of funerals from Edwards, who sends a funeral itinerary along with instructions on how to address the condolence card.

"It's actually been a pleasure to watch the Ladies grow, because voluntarily attending funerals for strangers is not something everyone would sign up for," she said. "Each of them has grown so much."

The Academy Ladies don't always know the person whose funeral they attend, Inabinet said.

"For us, it's just an honor to represent (military) families, to be there," she said. "It doesn't even matter whether they're Air Force or not; they're family."

Originally, membership in the Academy Ladies was open only to members of the Academy Spouses' Club, Inabinet said.

"I opened it up because I figured anyone who has any affiliation (to the Academy) ought to be able to do it, too," she said. Now, anyone who's affiliated at the Academy, including retirees, civilian employees and service members' family members who are 18 or older may join the Academy Ladies.

The program has made a real difference for service members' families, Edwards said.
"They like to add a heart to the funeral and a bit more of a personal connection than I can offer, and they really do," she said. "It's just such a good program for the Academy and our families, and I'm thankful to General and Mrs. Gould for implementing the program."

Anyone interested in joining the Academy Ladies may contact Inabinet at or visit the Academy Spouses' Club website at