With Honor, Compassion and Pride

December 2013 -- I recently attended a memorial service with military honors for a fellow Pennsylvania Guardsman. Master Sergeant Paul Kearns was a Loadmaster with the 193d Special Operations Wing, in Middletown, Pennsylvania. When he died unexpectantly in October, Paul was 48 years young, and is survived by his wife and five children. Although not killed in action, he defended and served his Country proudly for 30 years. I didn't know MSgt Kearns personally. Normally at funerals or services when military honors are rendered, especially at those where I didn't know the individual, it's usually when Taps is played that I'll get a bit choked up. But what got to me this time was when the Honor Guard member presented the flag to Paul's wife and children; it was done with such obvious honor, compassion and pride. For you see I was close enough to see as he kneeled, and hear and feel his words as he solemnly presented the flag to Paul's family.

The rendering of military funeral honors is a way to show our Nation's deep gratitude to those who, in times of war or peace, have faithfully defended our Country. This ceremonial paying of respect is the final demonstration a grateful Nation can provide to a past or present service member's family. The 193d's Honor Guard performed this final demonstration honorably. They provided a Color Guard, Rifle Detail, Bugler and Flag Detail to honor one of their own. That took a lot of effort and dedication, and I couldn't have been more proud of each and every one of them.

Many of you may be familiar with your Base Honor Guard. You've probably seen them at various ceremonies, like Dining Outs, performing Color Guard duties and such. And many of you may be aware they also provide military funeral honors for local Veterans and service members, including many of our own service members, who have fallen. The Base Honor Guard's motto "To Honor, With Dignity" is truly fitting of our own team of Airmen who volunteer their time to properly honor fallen comrades; a tradition filled with respect.

Our Base Honor Guard members stand ready, on sometimes very short notice and at times in very threatening conditions, to step up to the challenge in order to render proper and deserved military honors to fallen service members. How well they represent us and the Pennsylvania National Guard! I thank each and every one of them for volunteering for this honorable service. I also want to thank their commanders and supervisors for their support of these dedicated members as they support our Wings and communities. I highly urge all commanders, supervisors and every one of you to support our Base Honor Guard members whenever, and in any way, possible. They cannot provide this honorable service without your support.

If you're highly motivated, maintain high standards of appearance and conduct, and have the heart for it, you may want to consider joining your Base Honor Guard, and keep the tradition going; with honor, compassion and pride.