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Air Guard recognizes outstanding honor guards
Master Sgt. Velia Mireles, the Air National Guard 2010 Honor Guard Member of the Year, left, and Master Sgt. Brian Mays, the Air Guard Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year, were honored during an awards banquet at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., June 17, 2010.
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Air Guard recognizes outstanding honor guards

Posted 6/22/2010   Updated 6/22/2010 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

6/22/2010 - WASHINGTON -- The Air National Guard recognized the accomplishments of its top honor guard members here this week during its 2010 Outstanding Airmen of the Year celebration.

The two honorees are: Master Sgt. Brian Mays from the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard as the Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year; and Master Sgt. Velia Mireles of the Texas National Guard's 149th Force Sustainment Services Flight as the Honor Guard Member of the Year.

"I have a good crew back at home, and without them, I wouldn't be here right now," said Mays, who works full-time as the fund manager for his wing's logistics squadron.

Shortly after 9/11, he joined his base honor guard at the suggestion of his leadership.

"I never figured I would like it so much, or that it would be so rewarding," said Mays, who took the reins as honor guard program manager about a year ago.

His team of nearly 30 honor guard volunteers is a 50-50 mix of traditional Guardmembers and those who work on the base full-time.

Everybody serves on details when they can, he said, and as the program manger, it's his job to fill detail requests and ensure training, uniforms and equipment are up to high standards.

"I don't just sit back - I'm out there with them, as well as our officer-in-charge, and others," he said.

An honor guard's duties can include pall bearer, firing party, color team, the playing of taps, flag folding and flag presentations, among others.

Air Guard honor guard units at the states and territories provide those honors in their regions, often to support requests and tasks from the active duty Air Force.

A lot of times, Mays said they provide honors at funerals where they are the only military member; often for the families of World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans.

"A whole lot of people see them," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, command chief of the Air National Guard, who added that he makes it a point to thank honor guard members for that extra amount of service and volunteerism they perform.

"If they are Air Force or Army, I go talk to them and just tell them 'thanks,'" said Muncy. "They don't really have to do this program, and they take so much pride and spirit in it."

"I'm really proud to be a part of it," said Mireles, about her honor guard service in Texas.

Mireles works full-time for the Headquarters Security Forces Center on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where she supports operations for the military's working dog program.

About nine years ago, she joined her team on Lackland and went through a week's worth of training on how to post colors, how to fold the flag and how to present the flag and other details, including the 21-gun salute.

"I thought I would enjoy it, and I liked it," she said.

She provided military funeral honors, presented the national flag at sporting events, and setup and presented the POW/MIA table. She has also volunteered for countless honor guard details at retirement ceremonies, base functions, flag presentations and change of commands.

"It's one of the hats that I wear," she said. "I am also a mother, a student and I work full-time in the military."

"For us to honor them makes the most sense in the world to me," said Muncy. "If you read the [accomplishments] that they submitted from across the nation - the amount of ceremonies and events that they have done are huge."

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