MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. – The first to arrive at
the burial site, a team of seven riflemen, one bugler, a senior
Marine to call commands and another to present the flag to the
family, straighten out their dress blue uniforms. They always get to
Miramar National Cemetery, Calif., more than an hour before the
scheduled ceremony to practice again what they have spent hours
rehearsing during the week.
Marines with the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar honor guard await
orders during a funeral for a deceased Marine at the base chapel
here March 15, 2013. The honor guard performs 150 to 200 military
honors each year. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger
Marines of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar honor
guard are a direct reflection of their name; they guard the
honor of the Marine Corps by laying fellow service members
to rest with dignity and respect. As keepers of the highest
standards and traditions of the Marine Corps, the air
station's honor guard provides burial services for departed
Marines in the San Diego County area.
A sleek black
caravan pulls into the burial site. The silence of the scene
is broken by the snap and pop of the Marines coming to
attention and the riflemen presenting their M-16s in a show
of respect for their comrades.
The Marines are
prepared to receive either a flag-draped casket or an urn,
and know the proper procedure for either circumstance. Once
the remains have been marched up to the viewing site, the
Marines return to their posts and fade into the background
until the end of the eulogy.
the mourners turn to their attention back on the Marines in
their dress blues. To a senior's commands, the riflemen
execute a crisp facing movement, look at the sky, and fire
off the three shots. Each round cracks through the silence
as a singular, unified sound, followed by the bugler's
somber rendition of “Taps.”
After thirteen purposeful
folds, the American flag becomes a neat triangle handled
reverently by the Marines. Before presenting it to the
family, the senior Marine places three rounds into the
folded flag, symbolizing the volley.
their rifles, the detail silently marches off and never
looks back, not expecting a single “thank you” for
performing what they feel is their solemn and proud duty.
“I think that as Marines, this is the least that we can do for a
fellow brother or sister-in-arms,” said Sgt. Aaron Torres, honor
guard noncommissioned officer-in-charge and a Topeka, Kan., native.
“I can't even describe how significant and how important this is,
not only for us who are doing it out of respect for the past
Marines, but also for their families.”
According to Torres,
the detail performs between 150 and 200 military funerals per year.
They practice for hours each week to be ready 365 days a year, rain
or shine, to stand as a symbol of the fallen Marine's service. Any
Marine who served honorably is eligible to receive military burial
“This may be the first and last time that these families see a
Marine besides their loved one and we are going to leave a lasting
impression on the family,” said Torres. “It's extremely important
that we do everything as perfectly and as professionally as
possible. That way, the family has a good lasting impression on the
Staff Sgt. Tyrone Denkins, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar's honor
guard staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, presents a flag to
the mourning spouse of a deceased retired Marine aboard the base
chapel here March 15, 2013. Members of the honor guard are expected
to keep their military bearing even during very emotional moments.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger
There are certain qualities that are important in a Marine who
serves on the honor guard. After all, he or she is there to make the
families of the deceased proud of their loved one's time spent in
the Marine Corps.
“A Marine who understands the significance
of this is really at the heart of what it takes to be a funeral
detail Marine,” said Torres. “If they don't have that appreciation
for what Marines in the past have done for us, then they're not
going to put the effort in that they need for that final honor.”
For Torres, being a member of the honor
guard affirms that by being a part of those final respects, he is
exemplifying what it means to be a Marine.
and Headquarters Squadron, we're supporting the airfield of the
base; for the honor detail, we're supporting the whole Marine
Corps,” he said. “It is one of the most rewarding things that I have
done in my time during the Marine Corps. I would put it right up
there with deployments overseas to Iraq.”
As the Marines
silently depart, they leave the burial site behind, and for that
family, a lasting impression of the Marine Corps' professionalism
By USMC Cpl. Melissa Wenger
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