Air Force

May 17, 2012

Memorial Day stirs memories for Honor Guard veteran

Tags:
Maj. Gabe Johnson
162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)
Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela, left, performs a flag folding ceremony at a military retirement at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson. Thirty years ago this Memorial Day he first signed up for Honor Guard duty and has steadily volunteered ever since.

This Memorial Day, while Americans gather to remember those who gave their lives for their freedoms, military Honor Guards will function as central fixtures at cemeteries, parades and solemn observances.

For Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela, a full-time F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief at Tucson International Airport, the day is one of a thousand opportunities in his military career to pay his respects in the most profound way he knows how. For the last 30 years he’s volunteered for Honor Guard duty.

With military precision, Brizuela has marched in parades, posted the colors, folded flags, carried coffins and played Taps. He’s left crowded rooms speechless after performing the POW/MIA ceremony and he’s heard the cries of families who have lost loved ones. Most of all, he’s heard words of sincere appreciation from fellow Americans for his role in carrying on some of the country’s most revered traditions.

“First, I’m grateful I can still do it,” he said. “Life has been good to me and as such I need to give back. I see it as a small return for the blessings I’ve been given. I don’t consider 30 years to be an achievement. I consider this to be part of what is expected of me given the traits I’ve been taught. The Honor Guard is about honoring the country and those who have served it. This Memorial Day my thoughts will be with them.”

Only months after graduating from Tucson’s Amphitheater High School in 1981 he reported to Marine Corps basic training. He began his career as an aircraft maintainer for F-4 Phantoms at Naval Air Station Dallas – his Honor Guard duties were performed on his own time. Memorial Day 1982 was his first detail where he helped post the colors for a ceremony at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas.

In 1983 Brizuela performed at a funeral where Taps was played from a tape recording and a set of speakers. The recording didn’t sit well with the young Marine. The next day he spent $300 on a trumpet and began taking music lessons just to learn to play the 24-note song.

“I remember practicing at my barracks, driving people crazy,” he said. “Once I played Taps at a funeral I was locked into doing that. I was the only bugler in the area so I was very busy playing at ceremonies all over.”

During his 10 years with the Marine Corps, he performed at an average of three funerals per week.

In 1991 he moved back to Tucson to be near his family. He enlisted in the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing and was instantly drawn to the unit’s Honor Guard.

“One day I was leaving the hangar wearing my service dress and carrying my trumpet to play Taps at my uncle’s funeral. Someone saw me and asked where I was going, so I told him. The next day my first sergeant told me I was going to join the wing’s Honor Guard.”

Since then, Brizuela established himself as one of the unit’s most dedicated Honor Guard volunteers, said Master Sgt. Frank Enfinger, the team manager.

“Let me put it this way, he once performed a detail on his wedding day,” said Enfinger. “We can always count on him and there’s nothing he won’t do. He would even try to come home early from [temporary duty] to help with a detail if we needed him.”

“Breezy was the Honor Guard member of the Year for the Arizona Air National Guard in 2009. He deserved that recognition and he deserves it now for completing 30 years.”

Brizuela openly acknowledges the emotional toll of Honor Guard duty. His most difficult details were at funerals for co-workers and friends, or when he presented the folded U.S. flag to grieving mothers and widows with a solemn speech in either English or Spanish:

– On behalf of the President of the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation. May God bless you, and may God bless your family.

“It’s very powerful,” Brizuela said. “And when you do it in Spanish it’s even more powerful because you are reaching out to the family and reminding them that service and sacrifice knows no language barriers.”

According to Brizuela, the Honor Guard reminds servicemembers of their traditions as well as why they wear the uniform. “And it shows the public that their military is professional and its people reflect qualities that inspire confidence,” he said. “It makes people feel good about their country and the people on the front lines protecting it.”

U.S. Marine Corp Sgt. Michael Brizuela takes a photo with his bugle and his F-4 Phantom at Naval Air Station Dallas in 1988. For 30 years he has volunteered with Marine and Air Guard Honor Guards.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier)

PASM and AMARG set new record

The Pima Air and Space Museum and the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group set a new record for tours administered in the month of July. The non-profit museum and D-M’s “Boneyard” brought in 2,060 visitors, ...
 
 

Help make it possible

D-M is preparing to kickoff its annual Combined Federal Campaign Sept. 1. The CFC’s mission is to give federal employees the opportunity to promote philanthropy by supporting their favorite charities. There are more than 3000 national and international charities for federal employees to choose from. “Now, D-M members can give to any charity in the...
 
 

MAC celebrates 85th anniversary

The Tucson Metro Chamber Military Affairs Committee celebrated its 85th anniversary earlier this month. The MAC became a standing committee of the Tucson Metro Chamber in 1929. At that time, the Chamber’s Aviation Committee was responsible for the Pilot’s Register at Davis-Monthan Aviation Field, the first municipal aviation field in the United States. “I think...
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force earns majority of federal energy awards

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — It’s a banner year for the Air Force with the Department of Energy recently announcing that service won a lion’s share of 2014 Federal Energy Management Program awards. The Air Fo...
 
 

Nominees sought for Joan Orr spouse, Verne Orr ward

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Air Force Personnel Center officials are now accepting nominations for the 2015 Air Force Association Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year Award and the 2015 AFA Verne Orr Award. The Joan Orr award honors significant contributions made by non-military spouses of Air Force military members. The...
 
 

Airmen encouraged to vote, obey AFI on political activities

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — As the political season approaches, we should all be encouraged to do our civic duty and go out and vote. However, as an Air Force member, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here is a short noninclusive list to help you determine what is or is...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin