Honoring Those Who Served
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney
November 16, 2023
Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do; these are the core values that define those who join the U.S. Air Force. All Airmen strive to exude these values daily, but few have the chance to demonstrate them so publicly as the Ellsworth Air Force Base Honor Guard.
November 13, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Maj. Austin Clark (left), Senior Airman Natalie Zea (middle), and Airman 1st Class Alexzandria Hernandez (right), all members of the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, stand at attention at the beginning of a funeral honors ceremony held at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. During the ceremony, the American flag is unfolded, held over the urn, refolded, then handed off to the veteran’s next of kin. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney.)
With uniforms in precise order and drill movements perfected, the 28th Force Support Squadron Honor Guard regularly goes out into the community to provide funeral honors to retirees, veterans, and active-duty service members, as well as provide color details at retirement ceremonies and other events to include concerts and sporting events.
“This gives us the opportunity to show families that we appreciate their family member’s service,” said 2nd Lt. Slate Simpson, 28th FSS ceremonial guardsman and the first officer to be part of the team in four years. “Our color details are an opportunity for outreach that can help with recruiting.”
Airmen perform this special duty with contracts lasting one year. Those selected go through three weeks of extensive training in advanced drill, rifle-carrying, flag folding and handling, and proper wear of their dress uniform.
Additionally, members of the base Honor Guard must prepare emotionally for what will be required of them during funeral services.
According to Airman 1st Class Sam Cabrera, 28th FSS ceremonial guardsman, handing off the flag to the next-of-kin during funeral honors is the most emotionally charged moment.
November 13, 2023 - U.S Air Force Maj. Austin Clark, 28th Contracting Squadron commander, presents a folded American flag to Linda Salter, wife of Maj. David Salter, a retired Air Force officer who recently passed, at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota. The vision of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard is to be the preeminent ceremonial unit, honoring our heritage and embodying personal and professional excellence. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brittany Kenney.)
“At first, I didn’t know how I would react,” said Cabrera. “I got through it. The weight of it all didn’t hit me until later.”
It is for these moments where hours of training are crucial for those on the team.
“The main thing you can do to prepare is just practice so even with all the emotions going on, it becomes a routine,” said Simpson. “Honestly, it’s a surreal but greatly fulfilling experience.”
As this is a temporary position within the military, members of the base Honor Guard highly recommend applying to the team.
“Overall, it’s been a great experience as you get to see the other side of the Air Force,” said Cabrera. “Knowing that there is a part of the military that’s dedicated to your family’s service is incredibly rewarding and humbling.”
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