Back to Blue: The Impact of my Time in Honor Guard

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Colleen Anthony
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It’s 7:30 a.m. on my first day of honor guard training and I am late. Already, the new trainees are lined up outside preparing for uniform inspection. I drop my stuff, run outside and fall into the eerily quiet line. This is how the McChord Honor Guard experience begins for every new rotation of Airmen selected to be Guardsmen. Shoulder to shoulder, unsure about what will come next.

Quickly we all learned the next 2-4 weeks were going to be much more than we bargained for. Physically and mentally we were expected to absorb everything we needed in order to go out and perform the job of a ceremonial guardsman. An inspection every morning of either our ceremonial uniform, OCP’s, or travel uniform from the flight sergeant’s keen eyes was just the beginning.

It was all back to blue and I wasn’t thrilled at the beginning. The honor guard training focused on everything I let slip after I left Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, – how I held myself, what kind of energy I brought to work, and what my service meant to me. After serving eight hours a day for two and a half years I was experiencing, like so many, burnout. I didn’t have the same pride in my service that I felt after completing basic military training. I needed a break.

When I started at the honor guard we weren't allowed to sit, unless on approved break time of course – not exactly the relaxation I wanted. This break however was a much needed respite for the overworked analytical side of my brain. At the honor guard I spent eight hours focused on my movements, and my ability to perfect them.

The six months I spent performing military funeral honors opened my aperture and helped me appreciate my service. I felt so much fulfillment every time a family member would come up just to shake my hand, or to let me know I did a good job. I could see at every event just how much our presence meant to everyone.

I will always remember one funeral that was unexpected and affected the family members deeply. When they came up to me to thank me for being there they started crying uncontrollably, took my hand and told me how nice I looked in my uniform. When they saw me, I felt they were seeing a part of their loved one.

Whether it was a funeral, a change of command, or prisoner of war ceremony, no matter where we executed our drill, it was always in front of a crowd. We were expected to deliver a pristine performance no matter what. Those moments helped me learn that in the end, it isn’t just about the people in the audience. Rather it’s a moment to say thank you to the service member who came before. By walking in the footsteps of our fallen wingmen I’ve never felt a stronger connection to my service.

During my time there, I came to love being in the service again. Not because of the recognition, or the cameras, but because of the fallen Airmen before me. Serving in a form like that gives you a feeling of pride. Pride in the country you live in, pride because you know that whenever you inevitably pass on, there will be a wingman by your side carrying the torch you can't carry yourself.