Honoring the fallen

When a member of the U.S. Air Force passes, there isn’t much that can be done to replace the hole left by the Airman’s presence. Most families not only lay to rest a fallen loved one, but also lose their direct connection to the U.S. Air Force.

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base [Ariz.] Honor Guard consists of Airmen from different squadrons on base, volunteers who commit their time to honoring fallen service members and their families, while making sure that last impression is meaningful.  

“Units around the base provide volunteer Airmen to become ceremonial guardsmen,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Brison, 355th Force Support Squadron Base Honor Guard NCO in charge. “Honor Guard helps provide support and solidifies a bond between the base and the community.”

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard pallbearers carry a casket during a retiree’s funeral in Marana, Ariz., Nov. 17, 2019. The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard performs funeral honors and presents colors at civic events across 49,602 square miles of Arizona. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Blake Gonzales)

The Base Honor Guard provides military funeral honors to active duty personnel, retirees, and veterans. They also present and post colors for official ceremonies, provide rifle and sword cordons, and perform flag folds for official retirements. Guardsmen can also be sent into the local community to help with civic events such as parades and football games.

“I’ve gotten to do a lot of humbling things,” said Airman 1st Class Kenneth King, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron crew chief and DM Honor Guardsman. “Going in front of families who have just lost someone and it being your job to make sure their loved one gets the honor they deserve is a big deal.”

Airman 1st Class Zachary Dykes, 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron air ground equipment technician, plays taps as a ceremonial guardsman for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s Honor Guard during a retiree’s funeral in Marana, Ariz., Nov. 17, 2019. Davis-Monthan’s Base Honor Guard provides military honors for active duty personnel, retirees and veterans. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Blake Gonzales)

All Airmen in the Base Honor Guard are volunteers. They temporarily leave their main career fields for a total of six months to be ceremonial guardsman. They also have the opportunity to be a flight sergeant in charge of a group, or a trainer that teaches new guardsmen.

“You always want to do everything to the absolute best of your abilities just because of the impact you have on other people,” said King. “It’s kind of hard sometimes. Most of the time the person you’re giving the flag to is emotional, they’re crying and it gives you an idea how important the service is to them.”  

Two ceremonial guardmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s Honor Guard perform the U.S. flag folding ceremony during a retiree’s funeral in Marana, Ariz., Nov. 17, 2019. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s Honor Guard provides military honors for active duty personnel, retirees and veterans. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Blake Gonzales)

The Base Honor Guard provides services for over half the state of Arizona, covering a land expanse of 49,602 square miles.

“This fiscal year we provided Honors for 550 details,” said Brison. “We have not missed a single detail nor have we had any complaints.”

When it comes to representing the U.S. Air Force and DM, these guardsmen serve as frontline ambassadors. Under their oath to remain sharp, crisp, and motionless, they stand ready to support DM at a moment’s notice whenever they are called upon.
 

Senior Airman William Sieger, 355th Security Forces Squadron response force leader and ceremonial guardsman for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard, gives the message of condolence while handing off the U.S. flag to the next-of-kin during a retiree’s funeral in Marana, Ariz., Nov. 17, 2019. Every Davis-Monthan Air Force Base ceremonial guardsman is required to memorize the message of condolence, the message of retirement and the Base Honor Guard Charge. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Blake Gonzales)

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