TUCSON, Ariz. (AFNS - 5/15/2012) -- This Memorial Day, while
Americans gather to remember those who gave their lives for their
freedoms, military honor guards will function as central fixtures at
cemeteries, parades and solemn observances.
USAF Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela, left, performs a flag folding ceremony at a military retirement at the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson, Ariz
on September 10, 2011. Thirty years ago this Memorial Day he first signed up for honor guard duty and has steadily volunteered ever since. “I'm just grateful I can still do this all these years later. I want to be useful to the end and I hope I can even help post the colors at my own retirement one day,” Brizuela said. U.S. Air Force photo
by USAF Master Sgt. Dave Neve
For Tech. Sgt. Michael Brizuela, a full-time F-16 Fighting Falcon
crew chief at Tucson International Airport, the day is one of a
thousand opportunities in his military career to pay his respects in
the most profound way he knows how. For the last 30 years he's
volunteered for Honor Guard duty.
With military precision,
Brizuela has marched in parades, posted the colors, folded flags,
carried coffins and played Taps. He's left crowded rooms speechless
after performing the POW/MIA ceremony and he's heard the cries of
families who have lost loved ones. Most of all, he's heard words of
sincere appreciation from fellow Americans for his role in carrying
on some of the country's most revered traditions.
grateful I can still do it," he said. "Life has been good to me and
as such I need to give back. I see it as a small return for the
blessings I've been given. I don't consider 30 years to be an
achievement. I consider this to be part of what is expected of me
traits I've been taught. The honor guard is about honoring the
country and those who have served it. This Memorial Day my thoughts
will be with them."
Only months after graduating from Tucson's Amphitheater
High School in 1981, he reported to Marine Corps basic
training. He began his career as an aircraft maintainer for
F-4 Phantoms at Naval Air Station Dallas - his honor guard
duties were performed on his own time. Memorial Day 1982 was
his first detail where he helped post the colors for a
ceremony at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas.
In 1983 Brizuela performed at a funeral
where Taps was played from a tape recording and a set of
speakers. The recording didn't sit well with the young
Marine. The next day he spent $300 on a trumpet and began
taking music lessons just to lean to play the 24-note song.
"I remember practicing at my barracks, driving
people crazy," he said. "Once I played Taps at a funeral I
was locked into doing that. I was the only bugler in the
area so I was very busy playing at ceremonies all over."
During his 10 years with the Marine Corps, he performed
at an average of three funerals per week.
In 1991 he
moved back to Tucson to be near his family. He enlisted in
the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing and was
instantly drawn to the unit's honor guard.
I was leaving the hangar wearing my service dress and
carrying my trumpet to play Taps at my uncle's funeral.
Someone saw me and asked where I was going, so I told him.
The next day my first sergeant told me I was going to join
the wing's honor guard."
Since then, Brizuela
established himself as one of the unit's most dedicated
honor guard volunteers, said Master Sgt. Frank Enfinger, the
"Let me put it this way, he once
performed a detail on his wedding day," said Enfinger. "We
can always count on him and there's nothing he won't do. He
would even try to come home early from [temporary duty] to
help with a detail if we needed him."
"Breezy was the
honor guard member of the year for the Arizona Air National
Guard in 2009. He deserved that recognition and he deserves
it now for completing 30 years."
acknowledges the emotional toll of honor guard duty. His
most difficult details were at funerals for co-workers and
friends, or when he presented the folded U.S. flag to
grieving mothers and widows with a solemn speech in either
English or Spanish:
-- On behalf of the President of
the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I
present this flag as a token of appreciation for the
honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this
nation. May God bless you, and may God bless your family.
"It's very powerful," Brizuela said. "And when you do it
in Spanish it's even more powerful because you are reaching
out to the family and reminding them that service and
sacrifice knows no language barriers."
Brizuela, the honor guard reminds servicemembers of their
traditions as well as why they wear the uniform. "And it
shows the public that their military is professional and its
people reflect qualities that inspire confidence," he said.
"It makes people feel good about their country and the
people on the front lines protecting it."
By USAF Maj. Gabe Johnson
162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
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