By Tech. Sgt. Edward Wise , Buckley Honor Guard, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge
/ Published January 13, 2009
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Grieving family members huddle close as a freezing rain falls on Fort Logan National Cemetery, a dreary reminder of the somber events of the day. Seven former Air Force members, four retirees and three veterans will be laid to rest today and it is our job to ensure they receive the most professional and dignified service possible.
This time-honored ceremony -- held more than 500 times each year remains the core function of the Mile High Honor Guard, a 20-person team assigned to the 460th Space Wing here.
Despite the anguish and despair of the moment there is strength and dignity, symbols of the honored profession of arms the Airman sacrificed much of their life for.
Amidst the tears and poignant words of farewell, the Honor Guard team executes ceremonial movements with pride and precision, from the presentation of the American flag to the teary-eyed next-of-kin to the three volleys fired in perfect succession.
As the shots ring out and echo across the lakes and rolling hills of Fort Logan, feelings shift from the sorrow and grief of loss, to the pride and dignity of the Airman's accomplishments. Then, as the sad refrains of Taps are played, a myriad of pure emotion engulfs all within earshot.
It has been said that families look to a ceremonial guardsman during a funeral to see an image of the person they're laying to rest. They should see the strength the person had while a member of the Air Force and the focus of our team should be on course, remaining strong while keeping a sharp, professional image.
That image is well-honed as soon as someone volunteers and is selected to be an Honor Guardsman. Our requirements are distinct and unyielding. The training will be nonstop for the first few weeks after assignment to the team because it is necessary to ensure every movement is perfected prior to sending a guardsman out on their first detail.
They should be fully prepared for any change in sequence or service and know just what subtle adjustments have to be made to complete the mission. It can get up to more than one-hundred degrees at Fort Logan National Cemetery and down to less than zero. The Honor Guard must not only be well-trained and conditioned, but well-hydrated, well-dressed and fully prepared to stay outdoors and stand for extended periods of time without breaking bearing.
It is difficult to impress upon our new members how great an impact we have on the lives of the families we serve. It's our job to teach them -- to help them understand and let them know how important their duties are. Once they've attended their first service, that job is easy. Once they've presented our nation's flag, fired volleys and bugled Taps in remembrance, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent what a great honor they are providing. Knowing that someday, an equally precise, proficient team will honor their memory, their family is just another reason we do what we do, to honor with dignity.
The Mile High Honor Guard is made up entirely of volunteers from Buckley and its tenant units. We are always looking for sharp, motivated individuals in the grades of E-1 - E-6 to fill positions. Anyone interested in joining can notify their supervisor and first sergeant of their intentions and contact me at 720-847-6668.