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Patriot Honor Guard hosts open house

Members of the Patriot Honor Guard demonstrate procedures taken during military funeral honors. The Patriot Honor Guard participates in a variety of events including promotions, retirement ceremonies, large sports events and military funeral honors.  (US Air Force Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Members of the Patriot Honor Guard demonstrate procedures taken during military funeral honors. The Patriot Honor Guard participates in a variety of events including promotions, retirement ceremonies, large sports events and military funeral honors. (US Air Force Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

1st Lt. David Wyatt, 551st Electronic Systems Wing, carries the American flag during the Patriot Honor Guard’s open house March 29. The purpose of the open house was to inform Hanscom leadership about the honor guard’s mission and their need for volunteers.  (US Air Force Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

1st Lt. David Wyatt, 551st Electronic Systems Wing, carries the American flag during the Patriot Honor Guard’s open house March 29. The purpose of the open house was to inform Hanscom leadership about the honor guard’s mission and their need for volunteers. (US Air Force Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Hanscom AFB -- The Patriot Honor Guard is the face of the United States Air Force for many -- from New England sports fans who have witnessed the guard's performances at sports events to families in seven northeast states who have been touched by the military honors respectfully rendered at their veteran, retired or active-duty loved ones' funerals.

The Patriot Honor Guard hosted an open house, composed of a tour of its facilities and a detail demonstration, for members of Hanscom's leadership March 29. The purpose of the open house was to inform wing commanders and supervisors about the honor guard's mission, as well as the urgent need for more volunteers, said Master Sgt. Laura Noel, Patriot Honor Guard superintendent. 

The honor guard posts colors at change of command, promotion and retirement ceremonies, as well as at large sports events, Sergeant Noel said. "Those are great public affairs opportunities for us, and we love to celebrate with people. We're so busy with funeral details, though, that we don't get to do that very often." 

Military funeral honors are the honor guard's first priority, because Department of Defense policy states that all eligible beneficiaries should be afforded military funeral honors upon request, Sergeant Noel said. "We will not miss a funeral. All veterans, retirees and active-duty members are entitled to have military honors rendered." With an area of responsibility covering approximately 90,000 miles, the Patriot Honor Guard, which includes seven full-time staff members, 17 full-time Air Reserve Command members and 34 volunteer members, is often spread very thin, Sergeant Noel said.

In 2006, the honor guard performed details for 2,039 funerals. "This is one of the busiest honor guards in the Air Force," said David Van Steenburg, 66th Services Squadron director. 

Despite the hectic scheduling, members of the Patriot Honor Guard consider the work worth the sacrifice, Sergeant Noel said. "It's the most rewarding job you could ever have. There's nothing more important than rendering honors to our fallen heroes, and there's a great deal of satisfaction that comes with that. It's a difficult job to do, but it's very rewarding." 

The honor guard's exemplary service and dedication reflects the Air Force's high standards and respect for all who have served their country, said Maj. Gen. Art Rooney, Electronic Systems Center vice commander. "The Patriot Honor Guard represents the entire Air Force and its core values to all the people with whom it comes in contact. These Airmen certainly recognize the importance of what it is they're doing," he said. 

"The time they put into practices and performing details -- often giving up personal time on the weekends -- reflects the core value of Service Before Self. In addition, due to their hard work, they always look sharp and are well prepared, which reflects Excellence in All We Do. The feedback that we receive from families who appreciate their service is tremendous and well deserved." Col. Tom Schluckebier, 66th Air Base Wing commander, hoped the open house would encourage Hanscom's supervisors to allow their employees the opportunity to become part of the honor guard. 

"Supervisors are a key part of this, because they also have to sacrifice by letting their people take time out of the office. When the next airman or lieutenant inquires about joining the honor guard, hopefully their supervisor will remember being here and think, 'Yes, I was there. I saw what they do and heard the general talking about it, and it's important,'" he said. 

To volunteer or for more information, call the Patriot Honor Guard office at (781) 377-4850.