MacDill Honor Guard: Honoring those who served

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

With stoic expressions and slow, precise movements, MacDill Air Force Base Honor Guardsmen march toward their detail knowing they are about to see the faces of the service member’s family. They fold the flag step-by-step, one Airman then plays a rendition of Taps while the flag is presented to the family.

Base Honor Guardsmen's primary mission is to provide funeral honors for those who have served in the United States Air Force, they also provide colors ceremonies where they present the American Flag during events, and are constantly training to be the sharpest Airmen they can be.

“A typical day for us is we report in and get filled in on any new details or information we need and then we prepare anything we need for the details that day,” said Airman 1st Class Jarrett Hughes, aircraft hydraulic systems apprentice assigned to the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and base Honor Guardsman. “If we don’t have a detail that day we go over to our training area and work on whatever details we feel we need help with.”

Training is a big part of the job to ensure they are sharp in their performance but most importantly that they perform the honors correctly for the families.

Colors ceremonies are a huge part of the daily tasks that are entrusted to the base Honor Guardsmen.

One of the other important tasks is providing honors for veterans and retirees who served in the U.S. Air Force.

“The most important thing is to make sure we do everything correctly for the families,” said Hughes. “Personally, it is an honor to perform these details for families and I want to make sure they feel honored to have a family member that served.”

Honor Guard performs two different types of honors including a two-man flag fold team for veterans and a five-man flag fold and firing party team for retirees.

“During veteran honors, we fold the flag step-by-step for the family; once the flag is folded, one Airman marches off to play the bugle while the other presents the flag to the family,” said Hughes. “During retiree honors, we have the flag folding two-man team as well as a three-man firing party that fires off three volleys to honor the service of the individual.”

These details are extremely important because it allows everyone, not just the Honor Guardsmen, to honor the service and sacrifices that the Airman made for their country.

“I like to make sure everything looks perfect for the family because that is the final goodbye from the Air Force and I want them to know that the individual mattered to us as a country and a service,” said Hughes. “What makes it all worth it is seeing the family and how much they appreciate us, you can see by the look in their eyes that this was meaningful and the perfect way to have their family member sent off to other things.”

Being a part of something bigger than yourself is one of the many reasons people join the service and is another reason Airmen join the base Honor Guard.

“Serving in the U.S. military is a selfless act in itself,” said Master Sgt. Angela Wright, NCOIC of Honor Guard, assigned to the 6th Force Support Squadron. “Our guardsmen rendering honors to those that have served is the Air Force's way of saying "thank you" in the highest respect possible.”