Honor Guard always on call

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Neatly pinned on a bulletin board encased in glass, each handwritten thank you card and heartfelt letter is proudly on display for all those who set foot in the honor guard office at McChord. 

"That's my baby," said Tech. Sergeant Douglas Pecor, 62nd Services Squadron, beaming with pride while admiring the fruits of his team's hard work. "I tell all the young guys to read the letters. The lasting impression we leave on these families is important. It helps them understand what they're doing." 

Seventy-two active duty military members, all pulled from different squadrons on base, make up McChord's Honor Guard. It performs details at parades, retirements and changes of command, as well as providing color guards for civic events. 

However, the guard's main mission is to provide funeral honors for veterans, retired and active military. In 2005 McChord's Honor Guard performed 907 details, 697 of which were funerals, in 47 counties in Western Washington and Oregon. 

The honor guard's duties at funerals include administering the service, the presenting of the flag to the widow and serving as pall bearers as well as the firing party and the buglers. 

Each officer must be proficient in each position, which takes many hours to master, said Senior Airman Kalan Moyer, last year's Honor Guard Member of the Year from the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. 

Airman Moyer said it took him nearly 200 hours to become proficient at all the duties.
"It takes hundreds of hours of training," said Airman Moyer. "And that's just getting down the basics." 

Learning the physical duties that go into the conducting the ceremonies are one thing, coping with the realities of being an active part of a military funeral is another story. 

Airman 1st Class Eric Worsham said he volunteered to be a part of the honor guard but admitted he didn't know exactly what he was getting into. 

He said he was once stung by a bee in the middle of detail, but still managed to keep it together. 

"Maintaining your composure at all times [during the funeral] is the hardest part," Airman Worsham said. 

Airman Moyer said it took him a while to get used to emotionally detaching himself from the ceremony and concentrate on doing his job. 

"I still remember my grandfather's 21-gun salute at his funeral," he said. "It's nice to be able to take that memory and give it to someone else." 

The honor guard most looks forward to making appearances in the surrounding communities on holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day because the response from the community is always positive, said Sergeant Pecor. He said this past Memorial Day he sent 12 teams of color guards out to various ceremonies. 

In those situations, it is imperative the Honor Guard look sharp and put on a strong demonstration. 

"We have a great reputation here in the Northwest," Sergeant Pecor said. "We're in the public's eye more than any group on base."