For Staff Sgt. Lisa Dusseljee, one word stands out above all others when she considers her service in the Michigan Air National Guard: legacy.
“My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps, my dad was in the 110th, so I feel like I have an understanding of what it means to be part of the military legacy,” Dusseljee said.
In response to her awareness of honor a proud legacy, Dusseljee volunteers to serve as a member of the 110th Attack Wing Honor Guard, which provides funeral honors for military members and Air Force veterans. She spent several days in early December at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, working with the 127th Wing Honor Guard, as Airmen from both units honed their skills as Honor Guard members.
“It is critical when we attend a funeral for one of our veterans, that they are paid the honor that they are due for their service to our nation,” Dusseljee said. “This is not something I have to do as part of my job, but I really want to be a part of this. It is important to me.”
Currently, Dusseljee serves as a member of the 110th Attack Wing, which is based at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. She works in logistics for the 110th and has been a part of the Honor Guard for about three years.
“Most of the people who serve in the Honor Guard, I think at some level they feel that connection to the legacy of the people who served before us,” said Tech. Sgt. Shawn McKellop, who works in the Guard & Reserve Liaison Office at the Honor Guard section at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. There, he coordinates the activities of a dozen Honor Guard teams in five states in the American heartland – including those at Selfridge and in Battle Creek – that provide honors at some 4,500 funerals in a typical year.
Air National Guard members from Battle Creek and Selfridge provide almost all of the honors for Air Force veterans in the state of Michigan. At Selfridge, that amounts to close to 350 funeral details in a typical year, said Master Sgt. Ninette Marcotte, who leads the Selfridge team.
“I really rely on my team to make this happen,” said Marcotte, who’s been part of the Honor Guard for about a dozen years. “We have about 20 Airmen at Selfridge who I can call on. Sometimes, we’ll handle 10 funerals in a week and we have to work with Wright-Patterson and the team in Battle Creek to make sure they are all covered. It means so much to the families we work with.”
Tech. Sgt. Patrick Probyn and Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pranga, both members of the 127th Wing Honor Guard at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, practice folding an American flag during an Honor Guard training session. The two Airmen are members of the Michigan Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)
Honorably discharged Air Force veterans are entitled to a two-person Honor Guard detail at their funeral. The Honor Guard performs a flag-folding ceremony at the funeral and plays Taps at the funeral, rendering a final salute. Air Force retirees are entitled to a similar ceremony with a four-person detail. Air Force members who die while on duty are afforded a seven-person Honor Guard.
At the Honor Guard training class at Selfridge, an instructor from Wright-Patterson and team members from both Battle Creek and Selfridge reviewed the steps of properly folding the flag, firing a rifle salute volley and other steps.
“At the training, we slow it down, talk through it and perform all the actions multiple times,” McKellop said. “That way, when we get to the funeral, we are able to perform the honors precisely and properly. It can be quite emotional at times at the funeral home or at the cemetery. So it helps to run through a practice and to perform the honors with different team members in practice, so everyone is in synch when we are out there with the families.”
Funeral honor details are coordinated by local funeral homes in conjunction with the military services. Each branch of the military performs similar honors for their veterans.
Information on requesting an Air Force Honor Guard for a veteran’s funeral can be found at www.88thfss.com/honorguard.html