SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Ultimately, it is
about the veteran and his or her family, says Master Sgt. Thomas
A member of the 127th Wing's Honor Guard at
Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Barjaktarovich has participated
in more than 100 funerals for Air Force veterans, working with one
or more other Honor Guard members to fold the U.S. flag and present
it to the next of kin to the deceased.
Master Sgt. Thomas Barjaktarovich and members of the 127th Wing
Honor Guard present the colors during the 127th Wing change of
command ceremony, in which Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum took command of
the wing, Nov. 2, 2014, at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.
In addition to serving as a color guard at ceremonial events, the
127th Wing Honor Guard renders final honors to Air Force veterans at
about 300 funerals per year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech.
Sgt. Robert Hanet)
"It is one of the most genuine and heartwarming things I
have ever done," the master sergeant said. "To render final
honors to a veteran, it is just the best way that I can
think of to give back not only to the Air Force, but to my
Barjaktarovich is an aircraft maintenance
specialist, working on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 127th
Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. When his schedule allows,
however, he is one of the half-dozen or so most active
members of the 127th Wing's Honor Guard. The group, made up
of volunteers from around the Wing, renders final honors for
Air Force veterans at about 300 funerals per year around the
Detroit region, said Tech. Sgt. Ninette LeRay, the Honor
Guard coordinator at Selfridge.
The 127th Wing Honor
Guard works in conjunction with the Honor Guard at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The WPAFB
Honor Guard oversees Honor Guard operations for a six-state
region and relies on Air National Guard units, such as the
one at Selfridge, to be present at veterans funerals in its
LeRay said the 127th Wing Honor
Guard has been present at funerals at the Great Lakes
National Cemetery in Holly, Mich., as well as in churches,
funeral homes and cemeteries around the metro region. In
addition to providing final honors at funerals, the local
Honor Guard also serves as a Color Guard at ceremonial
events both on and off the base around the Detroit area.
Senior Airmen Eric Kim, another Honor Guard member, said
the group was particularly busy on the recent Veterans Day
holiday, participating in ceremonies at Great Lakes and at
Barjaktarovich said at most veteran
funerals, two members of the Honor Guard are present. For
veterans who are retired from the Air Force or in instances
where currently-serving members of the Air Force are the
deceased, a six-person Honor Guard renders the honors.
"The nerves and emotions are there every time,"
Barjaktarovich said. "But if you focus on the honor, on
presenting the flag correctly, that's what gets you through
And while the Honor Guard Airmen are at a
funeral to pay homage to a veteran, Barjaktarovich said the
Honor Guard members also gain from the experience.
"The benefits to the Honor Guard member are immeasurable,"
he said. "I really think that every member of the military
should experience it, even just once."
she said, given the nature of their service, the camaraderie
of the Honor Guard is tight.
"We really do become like a family, working so closely
together," she said.
About the 127th Wing
Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both
the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility
Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation
Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions
domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit
at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 97th
year of continuous military air operations in 2014.
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Heaton
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