The Base Honor Guard - A Great Way to Serve
By Lt. Col. Jon Michael Taylor, Commander, 117th Intelligence Squadron OIC, Base Honor Guard
/ Published March 01, 2016
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- As we begin yet another year with our nation involved in active combat operations, there are thousands of brave American men and women doing incredible things every day to ensure our freedoms and protect our way of life at home and abroad. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each of them as they accomplish this great task. At the same time, each day, hundreds of World War II veterans and members of the Greatest Generation are passing from this life. Every day, each of us enjoys the freedoms and privileges these great men and women have provided for us through their efforts and sacrifice. All Americans are indebted to them and their families for the opportunities we have today.
Within our wing, there is a group of dedicated professionals who take this obligation seriously. They are the members of the 117th Air Refueling Wing Base Honor Guard Team. The 117th has maintained a funeral detail team for over thirty years. It began as an all-volunteer force that provided the traditional Military Funeral Honors on their own time and at their own expense. They did not perform this solemn duty for compensation or recognition, because often they received neither. They were truly a special group of devoted Airmen in our wing's history.
In December 2000, the United States Congress realized that a large number of veterans were dying every day without proper recognition for their service to our Nation. Congress enacted a law to ensure that all veterans who served honorably would receive a military funeral. This law provided structure and funding for a base honor guard team at every U.S. Air Force installation and the 117th adapted to this new program. This team performs one of the most important duties that we, as members of our nation's military force, will ever be call upon to accomplish - the performance of the Military Funeral Honors at the death of a veteran.
The Military Funeral Honors consist of six pallbearers who carry the casket and fold the flag for presentation to the next of kin, a rifle team who fire three volleys over the grave, and a bugler to play taps. The team mission is often threefold. First and foremost, they perform the traditional Military Funeral Honors for a deceased comrade-in-arms who served their state and nation honorably. Secondly, their presence at the funeral service is the method our country utilizes to offer a formal "thank you" to the deceased veteran's family who sacrificed throughout their lives so their loved one could answer when their nation called. Thirdly, many people who attend these funerals are civilians who do not have any direct ties to the military today. Therefore, the base honor guard team is the only real face-to-face interaction they will ever have with the armed forces. To them, this is the Air National Guard, United States Air Force and Department of Defense, all in one. The team members have the opportunity to make an immediate positive impact on the civilian community and to be a true representative of the nation's military force to the public.
Our wing has one of the most professional and dedicated base honor guard teams in the United States Air Force and I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank every member for responding each time you are called upon. Your devotion and service is greatly appreciated by so many family members who you will never meet or ever know. It is truly an honor to serve with this group of great Americans. In the same manner as Airmen in our wing, members of this important team serve their time and retire. We thank each of them for their service. And just like our wing, we need new members to step in and take their place in order to continue to perform this solemn tradition for all deserving members of our great Air Force. If you are interested in becoming a member of your base honor guard team, contact Senior Master Sgt. Darryl Johnson at 714-2339 or myself at 714-2460. It is truly a great way to serve.