The Honor Guard-Service Before Self
By Tech. Sgt. Charlie Heit, 120th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 13, 2009
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- The interwoven thread that binds the thirty active members of the 120th Fighter Wing's Base Honor Guard, is service before self, and a love for our flag.
The Montana Air National Guard participates in parades, funerals and also presents Operation Patriotism ceremonies. "The program began in 1974," explained Master Sgt. Dawn Paul Charron. "It was conceived by Gen. I.G. Brown during a sporting event in Knoxville, TN. As the national anthem was being played, Gen. Brown observed that many people failed to show proper respect to the colors and the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. He challenged the NCO Academy Graduates at McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base to start a program to revitalize respect for the flag and to promote the ideals that make America a great nation," she said.
Retired Master Sgt. Ernie Peters and retired Master Sgt. Rich Paul accepted General Browns' challenge and the Base Honor Guard was formed.
Master Sgt. Maureen Nilsen has been involved with the program for more that 22 years. "Master Sgt. Dike Gipe introduced me to the program. It is a rewarding experience to represent the Air Guard at a variety of events," Sgt. Nilsen said, adding, "I believe in the flag and what it stands for."
The Honor Guard has been a part of events across the state from Glasgow in the northeast to Jackson in the southwest. Sgt. Nilsen's husband Earl has been with the group over ten years.
The Honor Guard also volunteers their services for military funerals, flag presentations to members of the deceased veteran's family, the firing of the 21-gun volley, and the playing of Taps.
Master Sgt. Chris Wilson is a bugler with the honor guard. He and Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson perform Taps at military funerals. "I get a sense of pride, it's a tradition that I'm an integral part of the last ceremony for this individual, that served our state and nation." said Sgt. Wilson.
Members of the Honor Guard believe in the principles of this country, and what those who went before us stood for and fought for. "I'm proud to be in the Guard, and I appreciate the sacrifice that so many have given," said Tech. Sgt. John McCallum, a member who joined the Honor Guard two years ago. "I enjoy talking with the families after the funeral service to hear their stories, and to tell them what I and the Guard do," said Sgt. McCallum. "I just feel that I must give something back, for those that gave so much."
The Honor Guard has performed the Operation Patriotism program around the state in schools and civic organizations. They volunteer their time for military funerals for all branches of the armed forces and post the colors at awards ceremonies, sporting events and the Mrs. Montana Pageant, which was held in Billings. "I get goose bumps from my neck to my ankles when I see the flag, or hear Taps." Sgt. Charron said. "When my kids were little they didn't learn nursery rhymes, they learned the Pledge of Allegiance."
The 120th Fighter Wing's Honor Guard was formed to honor those that gave service to our nation, and now the Department of Defense requires that units have a base honor guard detachment. The idea has come a long way from Gen. Brown's challenge over 35 years ago.
For more information about becoming a member of the 120th Fighter Wing's Base Honor Guard, you may contact Master Sgt. Dawn Paul Charron at 791-0357 or Master Sgt. Maureen Nilsen at 791-0118.