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Terreil Reed The Ceremonial Guardsmen A group of brothers and sisters in arms wait outside patiently for the

arrival of a distinguished guest. An hour passes, no one shows. A second hour passes, still no one. Now nearly soaked with sweat from the suns beaming rays, they continue to wait. As the third hour passes, a telephone call is received. The attendees and the guest of honor are finally on their way. It is time. With coats and gloves now donned, caps secured, weapons set, they take their places as they prepare to receive and honor, an Air Force member, who has fallen. Although it is three hours past the scheduled start time, it would be four hours when the event actually begins, but you would not notice because the outcome always remains the same. A group of extraordinary individuals, bearing the uniform which is honored in a rich tradition and history, gathering to keep a promise which is adorned on their badges, displayed prominently on their chests, “To Honor with Dignity”. Can you remember the last time you were given a short amount of time to learn, master, and perform a skill? How about five days to nearly reprogram all the training that took eight weeks. Five days to learn, perfect, and perform 11 different positions. Five days to synchronize your every move with the others next to you. Could you imagine standing at attention for an hour straight, to join a fraternity? Not unlike fraternities all around the country, the application process can be daunting at times. It is meant to be this way, and with good reason. Of course, not all who apply are accepted, but the many that are, earn their coat, silver rope and white gloves. They earn their cap, silver piping and badge. But most importantly, they earn the title of, “Ceremonial Guardsman”. Being selected through a rigorous elimination process, each member of the Honor Guard are everyday people like you and I, who have made an unwavering commitment, to represent and honor, all members, past and present, of the United States Air Force. Everyday the members of the Honor Guard perform a multitude of functions at ceremonies. Their primary focus is providing military funeral honors, where all the training for the various positions is brought together. Pall bearers, colors team, firing party and a bugler make up the necessary components to execute an active duty, full military honors funeral. Set in motion by the first command, the bearers, colors team and firing party all snap to attention in succession. The bearers carry a fallen hero to their final resting place, one step after the other, all in unison. The colors are hoisted and rifles maneuvered with hairpin precision, to pay respects to an airman who has made the ultimate sacrifice. The bearers set the casket down and form a table top with our nation’s flag, and stand sharp, crisp and motionless as they wait for the gravesite service to commence. Cleared to proceed, the colors team takes arms to signal the firing party, which will fire three volleys from their M-14 rifles. Boom! On each volley seven fire as one, like a single cannon on the battlefield. All render a salute as taps is bugled. Slap, pinch, throw. The bearers fold the flag, and then present it to the next of kin. With one final salute, the teams’ mission is complete. With this being either the first, last or only encounter with the military for

some, you can see why it is inherently important to have such a dedicated group of volunteers, to fulfill a promise and provide this service. Held to a higher set of standards than their peers, the Ceremonial Guardsman’s conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach. They never allow their performance to be dictated by the type of ceremony, the severity of the temperature whether hot or cold, or the size of the crowd, be it one, one hundred, or no one at all. Armed with mental agility, toughness, and endurance, these heroes leave a lasting imprint on the lives of all in their presence. Masters of adaptation, no request is too far-fetched to accommodate on the fly. From the drill teams whipping rifles around their bodies at speeds in excess of forty miles per hour, to funeral honor teams carrying a fallen member at a somber cadence, it is the members of this elite group who perform flawlessly, for you. Being proud to have been a member of this exclusive club for the past ten years of my career, I can honestly say, to honor with dignity is a promise that will never be broken, and the Air Force’s Honor Guards, the last to let you down, will never let you down.