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Honoring the fallen Veteran

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- The honor guard is universal to every military member, past and present.

Every day veterans, retirees and active-duty military members pass on. It's the mission of the honor guard to render military honors at the member's final resting place.

From the flag-draped casket to the playing of taps, there are meanings deeply rooted in tradition. The customer of covering the casket comes from Civil War days when caskets were not available. The flag was wrapped around the dead soldier's body forming a makeshift pall in which the soldier could be buried. 

The 21-gun salute, known to the Air Force as a firing party, is three shots of seven rounds and was originally used to stop the fighting on the battlefield so dead and wounded could be carried out. 

Today it is believed the three volleys clear the way for the soul to follow on that final day. The playing of taps was made official in 1932. Over the grave, it marks the beginning of the long, last sleep.

The honor guard has a very deep meaning to me. In the past five years, I have seen how this affects people to include myself. Seeing honors rendered at my grandfather's funeral was one of the most captivating displays of military professionalism I have ever witnessed. I will never forget the look on that petty officer's face when he presented the flag to my grandmother and her reaction.

In my tenure on the honor guard, I have encountered families that were disgusted with the military and didn't want the honor guard to be at their family member's funeral. However, by the time we completed every one of those funerals, the families were left in awe of what we did for them and were very thankful we were there.  

Every time I have presented the national flag to the next of kin for a fallen military member, I still get cold chills when I am down on one knee reciting the message of condolence. I remember it is a veteran who has sacrificed upon the alter of freedom for each of us.

I do it because I know one day it will be my wife who is sitting on the other side receiving a flag and message of condolence from a young military member.  I do it because each and every one of you and your families deserve nothing less when it is your time to be called to the ultimate reveille.

Military funeral honors are most likely the last impression of the military your family will see. We are here to provide that lasting impression of the military and to ensure your military service will live on through that ceremony. I hope this has opened your eyes to another side of the honor guard most people don't have the opportunity to see.

We are here to 'Honor with Dignity,' to honor for a lifetime of service.