KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
For some families, having the honor guard presenting military honors during a funeral is the last interaction they will have with the military. This lasting impact is why it is important for the honor guard to be skilled and precise with all movements they perform.
Keesler Honor Guard members embody the Air Force core values, integrity first and service before self, but personify excellence in all we do in each detail they perform.
“There’s a lot of eyes on us, whether they’re prior honor guard or they know how we function,” said Staff Sgt. Jerel Dy, Keesler Air Force Base Honor Guard Bravo Flight NCO in charge. “It’s very important that every individual knows every step and every position when we go out there.”
The honor guard program requires a four-month commitment that staffs approximately 15 Airmen per month.
“Anybody can join if they have approval from their leadership,” said Dy. “We like to have anybody that is willing to learn, they give 100 percent and just strive for perfection.”
The honor guardsmen practice four out of five working days. They practice flag folding, posting the colors, firing party and pallbearing skills.
Although the base honor guard participate in retirements, promotion ceremonies and many other on-base events, their main mission is to provide military honors at funerals.
“It’s very important to be on top of your [game] because it’s an embarrassment if we’re out there looking sloppy,” said Airman 1st Class Brandy Michaud, Keesler Air Force Base Honor Guard member “For the family, that’s their one connection to the military and once that family [member] passes away that can be their last interaction with us.”
When Michaud first joined the honor guard, she did not think the program would affect her as much as it has. Now four months later, she still remembers the impact from one of her first funeral details.
“It was down pouring that day,” said Michaud. “We were in full ceremonials, the flag was soaking wet and I had to fold it for the first time and I was asking myself ‘How am I going to do it?’ In the end the family came up to us and said it was amazing and they thanked us for showing up and supporting their family.”
Dy explained that moments like those are what revitalizes honor guard members.
“After going out on those details and presenting a flag to that family member – husband, wife, significant other and their children, you realize why you’re here,” said Dy. “When you stand back up after giving them the flag, saluting and walking away, it makes you humbled and enjoy being part of honor guard.”
Not only are those experiences emotional for the families who lost a loved one, but for the honor guardsmen as well. Dy described a funeral detail as an emotional roller coaster that pushes members to practice harder and be the best he or she can.
“When you know the family has gone through that situation; losing their loved one, it gives you that energy to keep moving forward and keep making those details, events, funerals perfect to make sure that family gets what they deserve.”