Today we say “Thank You” to our Coast Guard Veterans and all Veterans, past and present.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. —John F. Kennedy
Written by Seaman Martin Andrada, Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard
There is no greater honor than lying to rest the remains of a fallen shipmate. To pay proper tribute to one’s military service, and provide the family with one last treasured memory before they have to say goodbye is something that is hard to describe or put into words. It is a powerful experience. It is vital to show the families of the deceased that a grateful nation remembers their years of service and sacrifice.
These are but a few of the things that go through my mind as I stand in Arlington National Cemetery as a member of the United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, rendering military honors to deceased Coast Guard men and women.
The months of training, hours of uniform and equipment maintenance, honing of your skills daily with a rifle, flag, bugle, or by carrying a casket are all worth the commitment and dedication. It is all preparation for what we at the Honor Guard are committed to carrying out. We work to flawlessly perform and bring honor to our service, our country, and the deceased.
When one finally earns an Honor Guard badge, you commit to a creed that states:
I am an Honor Guardsman.
I will proudly stand beside my shipmates despite the discomforting elements;
I will maintain poise on and off the parade field;
I will exceed the standards and accept nothing less than perfection.
I will honor all Coast Guard men and women both living and dead.
I will respect the Honor Guard Mission and my seniors.
I will devote my maximum effort unto this sacred duty.
By wearing this rope I have accepted a commitment to excellence as a way of life.
All of this and more will be tested and pushed to the limits at some point while performing military honors. But there is nothing like seeing the appreciation and respect in the eyes of the family of the deceased. Hearing kind words from a family member and how much it means to them that their loved one was honored in such a way is a moment that can never be forgotten.
Whether it is in the bitter cold or stifling heat, you will see us at Arlington National Cemetery honoring those who came before us and ensuring that they are sent off with the proper dignity and respect that they have so honorably earned.