WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
When members of the 445th Airlift Wing attend an official military function, they may see the Colors being posted, observe a flag folding ceremony or during somber moments, hear taps being played. The men and women behind the scenes performing these functions are members of the honor guard.
Airmen serving in the 445th Airlift Wing Honor Guard play a significant role in the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Honor Guard program. In 2018 alone, the 445th Honor Guard members performed in approximately 502 of 3,478 military funerals, which equals to 14.4 percent of the base’s overall mission.
The honor guard's primary mission is to provide military funeral honors for active-duty members, retirees and veterans who served honorably in the Air Force within their six-state 210,000 square mile area of responsibility. States include all of Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky; half of Indiana and West Virginia, and two counties in Pennsylvania.
“Members of the 445th Honor Guard are expected to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and depending on rank be a true mentor as an NCO or a peer mentor as an Airman,” said Master Sgt. Shawn McKellop, 445th Force Support Squadron, superintendent, 445th Honor Guard, Guard and Reserve Liaison, Wright-Patt Honor Guard. “We tend to have irreplaceable experiences and our members are volunteer and highly competitive.”
McKellop, who’s been a member of the 445th Honor Guard since 2007, said one of his biggest hurdles is scheduling and manpower of multiple events being held at the same time.
“The biggest challenge to the base honor guard is our scheduling once we’ve reached our full time personnel limit. We reach out to Guard and reserve bases to utilize their part-time members, usually on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays,” said McKellop.
Being a member of the honor guard requires dedication, determination and a strong sense of duty.
“Working within the honor guard career field is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” said Tech. Sgt. Lisa Purk, 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron mental health technician and current honor guard member. “It is a privilege to be a part of this mission and a visual representation of the sacrifice made by our comrades.”
Purk said the honor guard represents every member, past and present. She feels that the honor guard is an integral part of the healing process for military families.
“We are standing in the gap between them (military families) and their loved ones. We are tangible, just like the flag that they hold in their hands. Being able to comfort these people in the short time that we interact is important. They might not remember our ranks, our names and our faces, but they will always remember the day that we gathered to remember the sacrifices made in service to this country.”
The 445th AW has a history of providing support. Some members serve six months and others serve several years.
“I have made it my life's work to honor our country's veterans,” said McKellop.
To schedule the Wright Patterson AFB Honor Guard, call 937-257-8964. More information about the program can be found at https://www.88thfss.com/honorguard.html.