Joseph Trujillo can’t remember his grandfather’s funeral at Riverside National Cemetery in 2007.
He was 19 at the time, so he should remember, but he just can’t.
His sister says he was definitely there.
February 2, 2016 - Senior Airman Joseph Trujillo of the 163d Force Support Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Moreno Valley, California, is also a ceremonial guardsman for the base's Blue Eagles Honor Guard. As a guardsman, Trujillo is always striving for perfection, which he says is an unattainable goal. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman)
“She said that I was hysterical and balling my eyes out,” Trujillo said.
“She said I was in shock.”
Even when he looks at pictures from the funeral, he said, he still can’t remember it.
“We were very close, so I probably just didn’t accept it at the time,” Trujillo said.
U.S. Navy veteran Petty Officer 3rd Class Francis L. Haskin was a Bronze Star recipient who served in the Korean War.
Trujillo called him Grandpa Red.
He can’t remember it, but during the funeral, an honor guard detail folded a flag in Haskin’s honor, Trujillo’s mother and grandmother have told him.
When Trujillo and a Senior Airman in the 163d Force Support Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, learned about the Blue Eagles Honor Guard program on base, he thought about the honors his grandfather received.
In a way, he said, becoming a ceremonial guardsman might make up for not remembering.
“He’s been my drive for the honor guard,” Trujillo said of Haskin.
During spring of 2015, Trujillo submitted an application to join the honor guard and was called in for an interview.
Two weeks later, Trujillo learned he was selected for a special duty assignment and would enter the honor guard’s training program.
“When I got that email, I was super excited,” he said.
January 28, 2016 - Senior Airman Joseph Trujillo, a ceremonial guardsman with the Blue Eagles Honor Guard at March Air Reserve Base, California, shows a photo of his grandfather, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Francis L. Haskin. Honoring veterans like Haskin, who was a Bronze Star recipient and served in the Korean War, is one of Trujillo's motivations for serving on the base honor guard in addition to his duties with the Air National Guard's 163d Force Support Squadron. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman)
As a member of the honor guard training flight, Trujillo studied the 261-page U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Manual, learned ceremonial procedures, worked on his movements, and worked on his mindset.
“It’s not an easy job,” he said. “You’re dealing with death every day.”
But funeral honors aren’t about death, Trujillo learned.
“They teach that honors are about the family, so you want to perform at your best,” he said.
After three to four months of training, Trujillo was ready to perform. His first event was a two-person flag fold during a veteran’s funeral at Riverside National Cemetery, not far from where Grandpa Red is buried.
“The flag was shaking,” Trujillo recalled. “I was so nervous.”
His first-time jitters were complicated by the presence of a Los Angeles-area news crew, who had been working on a story about ceremonial guardsmen.
“I hope I don’t mess up this flag fold,” Trujillo kept telling himself.
His teammate kept him calm as the pair folded the flag, presented it to the next of kin and played Taps.
“It was a five to ten minute ordeal, but it felt like an hour to me,” Trujillo said. “I’ll never forget the first detail.”
Several months have passed since Trujillo made the move from training flight to performing, but his training isn’t over.
“I see a lot of leadership potential in him,” said Staff Sgt. Zakia Webster, who has mentored Trujillo on the honor guard and also serves with him in the 163d FSS.
“We’re still building him up,” she said.
Trujillo has performed funeral honors at more services than he can recount, but he knows he can do better.
January 14, 2016 - Senior Airman Joseph Trujillo of the 163d Force Support Squadron (right) performs a 3-volley rifle salute with the Blue Eagles Honor Guard firing party while rendering funeral honors for a retiree, at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California. Serving on the honor guard gives Trujillo a way to connect with his grandfather, a Navy veteran who is buried at the same cemetery. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman)
“Even though we have our moves and our ceremony down, there’s always room for improvement,” Trujillo said.
He keeps working on his flag fold. It was his most challenging task during training and the same task he nervously performed at his first event so many months ago.
“You don’t really master anything,” Trujillo said. “You’re always striving to be perfect, but you are never going to get there.”
Perfect or not, there is one thing Trujillo knows for sure: that his grandfather would approve.
Sometimes after work, he walks the cemetery’s rolling hills to pay Grandpa Red a visit.
“I wish he was here,” Trujillo said. “I think he’d be really proud of me right now.”
By Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman
Provided through DVIDS
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