As he sat at the funeral, he watched intently as uniformed robots walked by his grandfather’s casket. Focused on their crisp, mechanical movements he stared curiously as the Airmen paid their respects. Not knowing how to feel, he found himself overcome with a sense of purpose.
Staff Sgt. Michael J. Solo, 5th Force Support Squadron NCOIC of the base honor guard, was inspired to join the Air Force after seeing ceremonial guardsmen at his grandfather’s funeral.
“Seeing them come out and do military funeral honors for him, I thought that was awesome, kind of like the culmination of his whole life in the Air Force,” said Solo. “He did 20 years in the Air Force and didn’t do a thing with it after that, and here at the end of his life, they’re providing that military funeral honors. I thought that was awesome.”
Solo eventually joined the Air Force and was assigned to the services flight at 5th Contracting Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. After talking to previous honor guardsmen, he decided to get involved and become an honor guardsman himself.
June 26, 2017 - Staff Sgt. Michael J. Solo, 5th Force Support Squadron NCOIC of the base honor guard, poses with his honor guardsmen at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The honor guard attends many ceremonies, to include colors team sequences with both flags and rifles, funeral sequences, pallbearing, firing party, flag folding, sword cordons and other ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Audit)
“I loved honor guard more than my current job,” said Solo. “I definitely got a lot more attached to the mission of honor guard. I felt like I was having more of an impact than my primary career.”
Whether it’s at work or at home, honor guard Airmen practice constantly to perfect their craft. Solo was no exception.
“When I was a guardsmen, it was 90 percent practicing, so it becomes kind of redundant after a while,” said Solo. “It’s easy to lose over three weeks, so when I went back it was more and more practice.”
The honor guard supports many on base ceremonies which includes colors team sequences with both flags and rifles, funeral sequences, pallbearing, firing party, flag folding, sword cordons, and other ceremonies.
Funerals are one of the most important ceremonies for honor guardsmen. They require a strong bearing, dedication and the Airmen’s full attention while performing.
Solo said his first funeral was the first time he made a mistake while in honor guard. He and his fellow honor guardsmen had to re-fold the flag twice. Later that day Solo answered a call from the daughter of the deceased, and she was furious.
“I apologized profusely, but I was incredibly disappointed in myself and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do honor guard anymore,” said Solo. “It was enough of an impact on me to where I’m never going to screw that up again.”
Despite feeling discouraged, Solo felt like honor guard was the only thing he wanted, so he pushed on. Remembering the sense of purpose he felt at his grandfather’s funeral, he overcame his disheartening thoughts and continued to strive to be the best.
“Honor guard brings me back to the tradition and the military aspect of the Air Force,” said Solo. “Working a desk job, contracting, phones, e-mails, computers, you start to get detached from the tradition and heritage of it. Getting to come into honor guard, it’s like you’re the face of the Air Force.”
Continuing his career in the honor guard, Solo recently rose up the ranks and became the new NCOIC of the base honor guard, with hopes of eventually join the Air Force Honor Guard.
“I’d go there in a heartbeat,” said Solo. “I would love to keep contributing, and continue to do honor guard in some way.”
Dedicating yourself to a cause is important because it shows when you put your mind to something you believe in, you can make a difference. Whether it’s big or small, it still matters. To this day, Solo feels pride, the exact feeling that was instilled in him the day of his grandfather’s funeral.
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dillon Audit
Provided through DVIDS
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