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Final Salute
by Army Sgt. Ricardo Gallardo - March 16, 2012

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Mr. Willie Brown, activities director at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home describes the Final Salute.
Mr. Willie Brown, activities director at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home describes the Final Salute.

 EL PASO, Texas (3/12/12) - Out the front door, the same way they came in, this was Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veteran's Home Activities Director Willie Brown's idea.

He wasn't happy with the manner in which the remains of the deceased were unceremoniously ushered out the side door of the facility. So he proposed a new way to say goodbye to the veterans of Texas, the Final Salute.

The idea was simple, when one of the residents of the home made their last march into eternity, the staff and remaining residents would line the halls, the family of the fallen would escort the American flag draped remains of their loved one, and the veteran would leave the same way they entered the home, through the front door.

Walking the halls of the home, which opened its doors to the veterans, family members, and Gold Star parents of Texas in 2005, it is
immediately evident who lives there. Above the main foyer hangs a banner, thanking those who served in the armed forces. In the main reception area is a painting of the facility's namesake, Marine Staff Sgt. Ambrosio Guillen, awarded the Medal of Honor for giving his life in defense of his platoon in the Korean War. There are lithographs and plaques honoring the fallen of our nation's armed conflicts, and there are the veterans themselves, 158 of them as of publication.

The facility can house 160 residents, providing them with round-the-clock care. Brown takes great pride in the home. While showing the rifle range, where residents can practice one of the skills they used to defend the nation, he recounted the outpour of support from the local military community when he put out the word that the range needed repair. It was his pride and respect, being a former service member himself, that led to his decision to propose the Final Salute to his staff.

“The idea was immediately made the standard here at the home. No one had a problem with it.” said Brown.

One of the home's nurses, Christina Box, grew up a “military brat” and immediately liked the idea.

“I tear up every time, whether I was close to the resident or not, it's just such a powerful and moving way to show our respect to a Veteran,” Box said.

Word of the Final Salute has spread throughout the Texas State Veteran's Home system. Now the residents of other homes statewide are rendered the courtesy of a Final Salute as they leave their respective facility. Brown's greatest hope is that the Final Salute will become commonplace nationwide.

“There is no other way to show respect to these great men and women, than to see them off, with dignity, through the front door, the same way they come in.”

By Army Sgt. Ricardo Gallardo
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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