As you can see from this post I survived yet another plane ride. Hooray! Both flights were actually very good flights with hardly any turbulence. I definitely didn't feel like the wings were about to break off and I could understand what the pilot and the flight attendants were saying, so all in all it was a good flight.

I had to go teach at an honor guard symposium for firefighters and police officers. The Lewisville Fire Department's honor guard decided to put together this training and conference for fighters and police officers that are bagpipers, drummers, color guard, and/or honor guard members. Unfortunately, these guys are mostly used during the funerals of firefighters, especially those who die in the line of duty. The fire service and the police service have a long standing tradition of putting together a very honorable and fancy funeral for those who lose their lives on the job. It takes a lot of guys (and gals) to put together a marching band, handle the casket duties, 'guard' the family, escort family and department and government dignitaries, run errands, and much, much more. It also takes a great deal of training in order to do these jobs seamlessly and effortlessly. So that's what this symposium was about.


They basically grouped people together according to their job and had specialized training in those areas. It's pretty amazing to hear a conference room full of bagpipers next to a room full of drummers. And it's even more phenomenal to see it all come together with the marching and the music being played.

I came in on the last day of the conference and the last event that they did was a huge demonstration of their new skills in the parking lot of the hotel, which was as big as half a football field. They had all of the pipers and drummers leading and then then the honor guard members marching behind. I was sitting on the curb watching when one of the guys told me to get up and march with them. If any of you know me, you know that I am a total white girl with absolutely no rhythm, but I couldn't pass up a chance to march with such an elite group of people. Besides, my job is to usually get the honor guard members assigned jobs and details at a fatality incident and then watch them work their magic. I have never actually been a part of an honor guard, so I was actually kind of excited to be asked to march around with them. Luckily I was in the second to last row and I told the guys behind that I was sorry if I threw them off. They were too good though to be thrown off by this rookie!

I did fairly well with the marching. I had to keep watching the guys feet in front of me, so I never looked straight ahead (which you have to do). I didn't do so hot when we had to make turns and it took me a while to get the hang of stopping. But after four laps around the parking lot (in heels and in 90 degree weather), I was pretty proud of myself. I also stepped away with a deeper respect for those guys. It's a tough job! I have always greatly appreciated the work that the honor guard does on the fatalities that I have worked but now I appreciate them even more.

As a thank you for coming up there to teach, I was given a commemorative drum stick! Thanks guys for having me! I can't wait to come back next year.

(Pictures of the honor guard in this post were not from the symposium. They were taken at the National Fallen Firefighter's Memorial Weekend in 2007. )



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Comment by Shannon H. Pennington on June 8, 2008 at 10:06pm
Any time firefighters and police get together to exchange marching methods and form ups is a good thing......letting others know about better.....good job.....the networking and comradship that is shared by the shoulder to shoulder dressing right dress and fall in....promotes support and unity when the hard times require the spit polish and parade honors. This makes sense to do this anytime the people are willing......

S. Pennington Past President
Calgary Fire Deptartment Honor Guard
Calgary Alberta Canada

Honor Gurad Member for 26 Years.
Emeritus for 3 years
Comment by Engine 32 Capt. on June 8, 2008 at 12:05am
Hi Wendy;

I'm the Chief Officer of our Honor Guard. I'm curious to know what you were there to teach. If you were out of step in marching, what was it that you were educating the troops on? Please share with me as I could hopefully pass along your experience to our troops.

Thanks ever so much

Lt. Rich Bliven
Lyndon Fire
Louisville, KY
Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on June 7, 2008 at 12:17am
Hi Wendy -

Sounds like you had a great experience. Rick Lasky and his cohorts told me about this symposium and I wish I would have been able to attend. The symposium came up as part of our discussion on my "Fire Service Funeral Practices" blog.

I just came back from the National Fire Academy last week after participating in their first Safety Through Leadership train-the-trainer course. It was extremely beneficial.

Being at the NFA and being a part of the Everyone Goes Home program has been a great experience so far and I'm looking forward to more opportunties to get involved.

Keep up the great work!

Stay safe. Train often.

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