Poem written by a member of the Honor Guard

The cool breeze is a nice contrast to the summer heat as we stand at ease

Our faces, only laughing at jokes moments ago, are solid as the hearse comes into view

We snap to attention, our metal shoe taps ringing in salute

The hearse slows to a stop, and we can stand “at ease”

The appearance of the family plays with my eye’s corner

I pray they don’t notice

I repeat in my mind what I will hear and what my feet should do

Just then, we’re called to attention, and muscle memory takes over

Then I finally hear it


I sway on one foot, one step at a time, trying to balance on a sloped pavement

We make it to the open back of the hearse, waiting for us to claim our brother in arms

Hand Off pulls the flag-covered case out, and passes the burden along, two at a time

I take a hold, preparing to take on my share of the weight

“Ready, up”

We push in, adjusting for weight, almost raising our brother

We turn and face forward.

My mind goes blank (how do I do this?), I shift my hands awkwardly

I pray they don’t notice


Our slow, swaying six stop at the cart on the dragging “halt”

I try not to notice the many faces as we stand charged with the care of their loved one

I lower my part of the casket at a slow enough speed, and immediately take hold of the flag

Here’s my line (“step”)

I have less than ample time to fold the edge and get that two-and-a-half, just as the four on the corners have theirs done

From there, we do our dance with the folding of our nation’s proud colors

I give my wink to the A1C across from me, and we step over

I’m pressed right into the tech sergeant’s shoulder, right where I should be

Now, it’s time, I’m up for folding my part of the flag

I tell myself it’s almost done; this part, anyway

I get started, and the mark takes over from there

The tech sergeant does his dress on the flag, then dismisses us with “face away”

We exit the building, and I’m marching off to my M-14, right where I left it

Me and the other two go through our own dance with our rifles, from attention to at ease (despite my fears, I haven’t dropped the rifle yet!)

We stand like this, rifle barrels locked in our hands, yards away from the stone and glass structure where the family I know nothing about hear words of comfort for a man I never knew

The anonymity makes our job easier, I note with a slight shoulder stretch

Just then, I see the door close

Time to go

The NFP behind us snaps to and bellows out his preparatory


Step one


Step two

(and here’s the part I dread; Please, God, let me do this right)

“Ready, hace!”

Following the two in front of me, I take as tight a hold I can on my rifle through my gloves and jut it forward as I step and turn simultaneously

It doesn’t go quite as planned, so I channel my self-frustration into my stoic expression

From there, it’s easy cheesy lemon squeezy as I spread feet, raise rifle, and lay my hand on the action, ready to go


Action down fully (thank God, it doesn’t jam!), four fingers up, swing weapon down, pull trigger and string right hand out like an archer, and then back to square one


I suddenly remember our cadence, practiced back in Alliance

Row, row, row your boat, gent-(bang!)-ly down the stream

One more to go….


Row, row, row your boat, gent-(bang!)-ly down the stream

(Yes, we got all three shots together on that last one!)

At the call to “present-arms!” we rotate our bodies and our rifles

I stand there as patiently as I can, holding the rifle with one hand and resting it in top of the other

As the bugler plays “TAPS”

Another six counts, and the rifle is back next to my leg

I can only imagine the tech sergeant as he goes to one knee and holds out our proudly folded flag to the widow while softly feeding our script of comfort


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