Honor Guard Honors Fallen, Serves Community

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

11/10/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al  -- They are the nameless, faceless representatives of the Air Force; humbly serving their country by honoring fallen Airmen. The Maxwell honor guard provides a vital service to fallen Airmen and our sister services.

"The primary responsibility of our team is to render graveside military honors to our fallen Airmen. That is what our Airmen do best. At times traveling four-and-a-half to five hours one way and arriving at least one hour before the family to ensure the ceremony unfolds perfectly," said Master Sgt. Danny Bradberry, the superintendent of the Maxwell Honor Guard.

In addition to funeral services, the group also participates in ceremonies around the country.

"We also participate in retirement, civic events, changes of commands. Normally at these events, we will post colors, play taps, fold and present flags. Currently we are on track to exceed 800 events this year," he said.

Airmen in the Honor Guard are nominated. Bradberry conducts a quality force check and an interview with each nominee.

"An Honor Guard member must be of the highest caliber in mental health, bearing, appearance, behavior and attitude," he said. "If they meet this criteria, make it through training and are certified, they become a part of our team."

After being selected, each Airman goes through an exhaustive training course with hands-on training from the honor guard flight trainers.

"We run them through firing party, body bearers, flag folding, colors and several other ceremonial events," Bradberry said. "Near the completion of training, the Airman will attend a funeral first as a spectator and finally as a part of the ceremony. Once he is trained, signed off and certified, he is placed on a team."

The guard's service to fallen heroes is an immeasurable necessity to the Air Force, he said.

"This is not just important, it is vital," said Bradberry. "I often tell people I am not fighting for my freedom, I am fighting for the freedom of our children and grandchildren. The freedom we enjoy today was purchased by the service and sacrifice of the men and women of yesterday. To honor them is to remember and acknowledge their service. It is our final thank you to them and their family."
Even though Airmen anonymously perform these services, their service does not go unnoticed.

"I receive handwritten letters every week from families expressing their gratitude for what our team does," Bradberry said. "Our Airmen are supposed to be the nameless, faceless representatives of the Air Force, but there are often lines of people waiting to shake their hands."

The guard not only allows the Air Force to offer gratitude and condolences to the family, it allows the participants the opportunity to serve these fallen Airmen, according to Senior Master Sgt. Eric Griffin, an instructor at the Air Force First Sergeant Academy who assists the Honor Guard in his spare time.

"I personally feel I am thanking the deceased member for putting their life on the line for my freedom and the American way of life," he said. "It is my duty, and I consider it an honor to acknowledge the contributions to this great country made by members of the United States Air Force."

Bradberry agreed, saying that serving his country through the honor guard is both an honor and a chance to learn about true leadership.
"I am humbled. When you get to my stage in an Air Force career, it is easy to get tricked into thinking you know a thing or two. I've been around the block more than once, but I have learned more about selfless service, devotion and sacrifice from these young Airmen than I have from any leadership symposium. They show up early, leave late, work weekends and at times go for weeks with no time off, but never a complaint, never a weary word from these guys," Bradberry said. "I am humbled to be a part of this team."