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Honor Guard: An inside look

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Heather Leveille
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Stand perfectly still. Do not move a muscle. Do not break your bearing. The hearse is coming.

“BEARERS, ATTENTION,” I command. I slowly raise my arm to give that perfect salute.

As I stand there waiting for the family to drive in, a million thoughts go through my head. 

I wanted this detail to go as planned because my team and I represent the last impression this family will receive from the Air Force.

When I first got to the Base Honor Guard, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived three days later than everyone else. 

When I walked through those doors the morning of my first day, one of my teammates asked me, “Do you have the Honor Guard charge memorized?”

For the last three days, my teammates were going through vigorous training to prepare to be the best ceremonial guardsmen they could be, and that included stating the charge loudly in front of everyone in the room. 

I did not realize the importance of the charge until much later in my Honor Guard rotation, but now it perfectly represents what it truly means to be a ceremonial guardsman.

Base Honor Guard Charge

Handpicked to serve as a member of the Eglin Air Force Base Honor Guard, my standards of conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach, for I represent all others in my service.


Others earned the right for me to wear the ceremonial uniform, one that is honored in a rich tradition and history. I will honor their memory by wearing it properly and proudly.


Never will I allow my performance to be dictated by the type of ceremony, severity of the temperature, or size of the crowd. I will remain superbly conditioned to perfect all movements throughout every drill and ceremony.


Obligated by my oath I am constantly driven to excel by a deep devotion to duty and a strong sense of dedication.


Representing every member, past, and present of the United States Air Force, I vow to stand sharp, crisp, and motionless, for I hope to be a ceremonial guardsman.


Memorizing the charge was only one of the many things we needed to learn in the short two weeks of initial training. We learned standing manuals, rifle manuals, pallbearer sequence, firing party sequence and the message of condolence. We were put to the test every day during 12 long hours of training. The training did not stop there. After we graduated, we continued to perfect every movement.

Then the moment came when we all went on our first details. 

My heart was pumping blood so fast through my body I could feel my pulse in my toes. Our team lead would call us to attention, and we would snap to attention so sharply you could hear it from a mile away. 

When we grabbed the casket for the first time it was nothing like training. There was an actual body inside this casket. In that moment, the weight of that knowledge fell on my shoulders for the first time. Adrenaline pulsated throughout my body so fast that I was unsure if I was going to remember what to do, but then the hours and hours of training took over. 

After we finished our sequence, we marched directly to the van, got in, and breathed out like we were just under water for 10 minutes. Pride and honor washed over me as I watched our team leader present the folded flag to the next of kin.

We went on details week after week, and we continued to improve. 

As we got better, Master Sgt. Sergio Garcia, the Base Honor Guard superintendent at the time, took notice. During one morning’s fall-in, he came in with the news of who from my class would be selected as team leads. Team leads are responsible for every aspect of the detail to ensure it is accomplished and performed to standard.

“Sgt. Rankin, Sgt. Ganal, Airman Lindsay, Airman Funk, Airman Stockdale, Airman Valderrama and Airman LeVeille, congratulations to our new team leads,” said Garcia.

To say I was excited to be a team lead would have been an understatement. As team leads, we were going to be commanding the detail and passing off the flag to the next of kin for every detail we performed. All of this in addition to taking on the responsibility for everything that needs to happen before, during and after each detail.

I enjoyed every part of Honor Guard from start to finish, but the one thing that I will always remember and will stay near and dear to my heart is handing off the flag and stating the message of condolence to the next of kin.

Message of Condolence

On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation, please, accept this flag, as a symbol of our appreciation, for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.

Then, I slowly stand up at attention and render one final salute. As I march away, I can be proud that the last thing the military provided this family was a perfectly executed military honors in tribute to their lost loved one.

Each detail I went on was different than the one before. Being flexible and learning to adapt, while maintaining a sense of grace, to the many different possibilities of what could happen at a funeral is what separated typical Airmen from ceremonial guardsmen.

Throughout my time in Honor Guard, I learned what it truly meant to exemplify the Air Force core values.