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Guardsmen, reservists support Honor Guard

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For the first time, members of the 114th Range Operations Squadron are serving on the "elite" Patrick AFB Honor Guard team.

Airmen volunteer for the Honor Guard to represent the Air Force's military customs and courtesies, thus helping to carry on the Air Force's long-established traditions. Tech. Sgts. Doug Henry and Kristian Kobilis are among those volunteers.

Sergeant Henry went through two weeks of intensive Honor Guard training, shaping him into a "Ceremonial Guardsman." Currently he is working at the South Florida Veterans Affairs National Cemetery, Lake Worth, Fla. The cemetery is one of five VA national cemeteries in Florida.

With 15 years service to the military, Sergeant Henry has performed details at this cemetery with pride. It reminds him of why he wears the uniform and gives him the opportunity to give back to those who served before him.

Sergeant Henry had the difficult job of presenting the flag to the next of kin at a funeral. Although it was difficult, he believes there is no better reward than a "thank you" from a family of a deceased veteran.

"For many family members this experience may be the only encounter with the military they will ever have, and to know they will remember it forever is very gratifying," he said. "You will generally present the flag after 'taps' is played and you are presenting at one of the most emotional times for the family."

Sergeant Kobilis, a full-time technician for the 114th, is a proud "on-call" Honor Guard member. If shortfalls in active duty manning occur at Patrick AFB, Sergeant Kobilis is able to fill in and provide that support at a moment's notice.

He enjoys the perks that come with Honor Guard service such as free haircuts, dry cleaning and premium parking spaces on base. "But the main reason I do it is the emotional fulfillment that comes from serving those who have paid the ultimate price for our country. I need to give something back to our heroes and their families. I would want someone to do the same for me,"

Sergeant Kobilis said. Sergeant Kobilis, who has seven years of Air National Guard service, added, "I believe the dedication to excellence the Patrick Hon-or Guard members provide is second to none."

Members of 114th ROPS didn't participate in the honor guard until Master Sgt. James Hawkins, Patrick AFB Honor Guard superintendent, spoke with the unit in February.

"We also have approximately seven Air Force reservists with the 482nd Fighter Wing at Homestead Air Reserve Base who support Patrick AFB at the new South Florida National Cemetery, along with approximately 75 Patrick Honor Guard members."

The Homestead-based reservists have supported the Patrick Honor Guard for seven years, but the national cemetery brings a whole new set of funeral details.

"The cemetery opened April 16, and is the one and only national cemetery in the Patrick area of responsibility," said Sergeant Hawkins. "Sergeant Henry lives near the cemetery, so he's my main administrator down there, but he also partakes in funerals."

Sergeant Hawkins said he appreciates the Guard and Reserve support of the national cemetery details. "I can send less people down, because we have funerals going on throughout the AOR, in addition to the national cemetery. We're very busy."

The Patrick Honor Guard performed 83 funerals in May. As of Tuesday, 80 funerals had already been performed for the month of June.

Information for this story was provided by Eric Brian, 45th SW Public Affairs.