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Honoring those who served

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tori Schultz
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
I've been asked multiple times "How do you present a flag and not get emotional," and my response is the same every time "It's not about me, it's about the family."

July 9, 2015, was my first day as a member of the MacDill Air Force Base Honor Guard. I was both excited and nervous to experience the Air Force from a different perspective. I knew I would be rendering honors to fallen comrades and their grieving family members. 

After a few weeks of training I arrived at Hodges Funeral Home at Lee Memorial Park in Ft. Myers and nervously began to ask my team members a million questions. I wanted to ensure I knew exactly where to be and what to do.

During the ceremony, I folded the flag just as I had been trained to do. It was not until the end that I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. I was so worried I would forget a step or mess up in front of the family, but I was able to focus on the task in front of me and complete it.

Eventually, my bearing was at its best, and I no longer became nervous during details; that is, until we received a request to perform an active duty funeral.

I was part of the pallbearer team and my heart was beating against my chest. I would be front and center performing a six-man flag fold over the casket.

As we carried the casket I experienced a brief reality check.

I was carrying the body of a young Airman with his grieving family following behind me. There was no room for error because the family deserved our very best. At that moment, my nerves faded and the confidence I gained after months of training returned. I understood the importance of what I was doing and that I needed to perform it flawlessly for his family. Thankfully, the funeral went as planned and the family expressed how grateful they were to the team.

I left the ceremony feeling a sense of accomplishment. I went from feeling nervous to gaining my confidence back and performing my duty.

Eventually, my last day assigned to the honor guard was on Dec. 31, 2015. I now miss being a part of a team that renders honors to fallen comrades that have helped pave the way for past, present and future military members.

Nothing else will ever give me the feeling that I received when rifles went off, Taps began to play and a flag was presented to a family.