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Guarding history, traditions

Ellsworth Honor Guard members practice to perfect ceremonial flag folding they will perform during funeral services.

Ellsworth Honor Guard members practice to perfect ceremonial flag folding they will perform during funeral services.

Ellsworth Honor Guard members practice to perfect ceremonial flag folding they will perform during funeral services.

Ellsworth Honor Guard members practice to perfect ceremonial flag folding they will perform during funeral services.

Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. -- My name is Tony Thomas. My father served in the Air Force for over 20 years, some of those years at Ellsworth. He proudly served his country, and believed in and supported the US Armed Forces, especially the Air Force, every minute of every day for his entire life.

On Aug. 22, we laid him to rest.

My sister, Chief Master Sgt. Christine Flores, arranged for the Honor Guard from your base to be present at the burial ceremony.

In small towns like Gary, South Dakota, where my father was buried, the Honor Guard consists of elderly VFW members, with ill fitting uniforms and an unpolished routine. I respect these men for their service to country, and their genuine desire to continue to serve their country by honoring their fellow servicemen and service women. However, the actual interment of a loved one provides final closure for a family, and is the last memory you will ever have of that family member.

I am writing to convey to you that the Honor Guard that honored my father and my family were the most respectful, caring, crisp, polished and professional team that I could have ever imagined, from saluting my father as we arrived at the cemetery, to the beautiful flag ceremony, the 21 gun salute, taps, everything. These men and women cared; you could see it in their eyes. No greater respect could have been paid to my father.

I hope this message of thanks reaches each and every member of the Honor Guard who participated.

You honored a great man, father, grandfather, husband, friend, and fellow serviceman. Words will never be able to express the gratitude and respect that our family has for you. Your actions have given us closure, and you will be in our thoughts and prayers always.
Thank you, so very much, Tony Thomas and the family of Tech. Sgt. Henry Theodore Thomas Ellsworth's honor guard strives for excellence and touches the lives of many, like those in the thank you letter above, and has followed a road of accomplishments under the leadership of Tech Sgt. Morgan.

Tech. Sgt. Robert Morgan, 28th Bomb Wing Honor Guard NCOIC, assumed duties as Honor Guard NCOIC upon development of the position in November 2004.
At that time, the Honor Guard acquired a building, to work out of and train in, which was in need of work -- a lot of work. The facility now known as the Honor Guard facility was built in 1957 and consumed 650 volunteer labor hours to transform it into a fully-functioning facility. The building now contains two office administrative sections, one on-site armory, an initial issue and supply section, one classroom and one high-ceiling open training bay area.

Once the building was operable the transformation of Ellsworth's Honor Guard began. "This has been the busiest and best duty I have ever had the privilege to perform," said Sergeant Morgan. Ellsworth's Honor Guard has the third largest area of responsibility of any branch of the service in the country, covering 166,318 square miles. Covering that area has averaged the honor guard more than one tasking per day totaling 451 taskings in 2005.

These taskings are performed by the all-volunteer, 63-member honor guard. Ellsworth's honor guard is the most diverse; it includes members of all ranks in the military from Airman Basic to Colonel, has the largest amount of officers as honor guard members in the Air Force and is the only guard with the wing commander as an active member.
Ellsworth's Honor Guard stands out among others not only for its members, but for what they do.

Sergeant Morgan explained, "The H in our Honor Guard Creed stands for handpicked. 'Handpicked to serve as a member of the 28th Bomb Wing Honor Guard, my standards of conduct and level of professionalism must be above reproach, for I represent all others in my service.' With this in mind it is very important that we always perform flawlessly and perfectly."

And that they do, practicing each Thursday to perfect their every movement.
"Through our hard work and dedication we can ensure that the history and traditions that started with the activation of the Honor Guard in May of 1947 continue throughout our future."

All that hard work and dedication paid off. Ellsworth's Honor Guard was named Best in Air Combat Command, best in 12th Air Force and after an inspection from the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, was named The Best Base Honor Guard in the U.S. Air Force.

"As an airman, I recall not knowing what the Honor Guard was about. Once I joined I realized that there's more to it than just standing pretty; it's about having the will to give something back," said Sergeant TrejoSanchez.

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