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To honor with dignity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nick Daniello
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- These Airmen spend countless hours perfecting minuscule movements in unison. Remaining superb, regardless of severity in temperature or size of crowds, they stand steadfast throughout every funeral and ceremony, honoring all who have served.

The Honor Guard’s primary mission is to provide funeral honors for veterans, retirees, and active duty service members of the U. S. Air Force, Army Air Corps or any sister services who require their support. Fairchild’s ceremonial guardsmen maintain a region of 62,000 square miles, which covers many counties in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

"Honor Guard was established because of funerals and isn’t just focused only on drill and ceremony like everyone thinks,” said Tech. Sgt. Carlos H. Torres Figueroa, NCO in charge of the Fairchild Air Force Base Honor Guard. “It’s about providing funeral honors.”

According to Torres, providing funeral honors is a no-fail mission. His team of ceremonial guardsmen must precisely execute burial details correctly the first time, because there are no second chances to perform proper funeral honors.

Fairchild’s Honor Guard provides support for an average of seven funerals a week, but have had weeks where they’ve supported upward of 20 funerals.

“I want to do right by the family members,” said Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Sloane, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief and Fairchild’s Honor Guard lead flight sergeant. “I look at being able to provide funeral honors as a way of thanking families for their sacrifices. It’s a way of giving back to everyone who’s served.”Sloane said, presenting a young boy a folded flag at their grandparent’s funeral was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in his 18-year military career.

“Honor Guard is the most difficult but most humbling experience I’ve had,” he said. “Serving in Honor Guard is far more humbling than my time as a Military Training Instructor and providing burial detail really hits home that freedom isn’t free.”

Honor Guard is the public face of the U.S. Air Force for any and all events. The memory of a burial detail providing funeral honors leaves a, white gloved, flag-folding memory for many children, spouses, families and military members.

“I still remember to this day, the Honor Guard detail who were at my grandfather’s funeral,” said Col. Ryan Samuelson, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander. “The amount of attention to detail, the honor and dignity Honor Guard provides is outstanding. They are the last military members to handle the flag before handing it to their families and that really sticks with them. They are the final touch of the military that people remember.”

For Honor Guard, countless hours are spent training to perform perfect movements for only a handful of minutes. From one ceremony to the next, these Airmen stand prepared for every funeral and ceremony remaining superb, regardless of severity in temperature or size of crowds. They do these things with one goal in mind; to honor with dignity.