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Honoring the Fallen

02 July 2024

From MC1 Louis Lea

Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 1st Class Deion Sherwood, PMRF’s lead Honor Guard representative, is a prior member of the Navy’s Ceremonial Guard. AZ1 served in Second Platoon as a Firing Party riflemen and shares his expertise with Sailors at PMRF to conduct funeral honors for the region.

Two Sailors stand impossibly still with each hand on a corner of the United States flag. In unison the Sailors move deliberately through each fold of the ensign ending with a perfect triangle, with the stars and blue field on display. Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 1st Class Deion Sherwood presents the flag to the spouse of a World War II veteran who has passed away and renders a salute in honor of the late sailor’s service. 

Sherwood, from Kissimmee, Florida, is the Honor Guard coordinator at Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sands and one of the elite few who have served with the Navy Ceremonial Guard Firing Party at Arlington National Cemetery.

After arriving at Naval Training Command Great Lakes on the Navy’s birthday, Oct. 13, 2015, Sherwood was approached by a member of the Ceremonial Guard and asked to attend the screening and interview process to join the unit. Out of a few hundred candidates, Sherwood was one of three Sailors who were selected to move forward with training after boot camp.

“Our training started the second we arrived at the airport,” said Sherwood. “They showed us a couple of movements just one time and from that point forward we were expected to execute them perfectly every single time.” 

The initial training for Navy Ceremonial Guardsmen is eight to nine weeks focused on marching and rifle drill, ceremonial uniform standards, M-1 rifle assembly and inspection, and requires Sailors to learn the history and purpose of the Ceremonial Guard.

“I felt an extreme sense of purpose at the Ceremonial Guard,” said Sherwood. “Everything you do in a performance matters, from the way that you walk, down to the way that you breathe. It all has to be in sync with the six people next to you. Always striving towards perfection meant I always had something to work toward and that I could be proud of what I had already accomplished.”

Upon graduation, Sherwood was selected to join the Ceremonial Guard’s Second Platoon, the Firing Party. The Firing Party riflemen perform a final salute of three volleys at every Navy Funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. The Firing Party executes this salute in three precise volleys of seven rifles firing at the exact moment, as though three cannon rounds were fired.  

“It’s incredibly emotional, especially at the beginning, but the bond you have with the rest of the guard makes it easier; you go through it together,” said Sherwood. “I didn’t get many pictures from my time there but the memories and the brotherhood will be with me forever.”

There is no point in a guardsman’s career where they are finished training. Each day and each performance is an opportunity to be better than the one before. Guardsmen spend hours each day training to maintain their historic and exalted level of perfection. 

“I think that a lot of my character, how I carry myself, the way I talk and how I handle my day to day job I can look back to my time in the Ceremonial Guard and pinpoint where I built that foundation,” said Sherwood “ It changes you for the better.”

Today, as PMRF’s Honor Guard coordinator, Sherwood is responsible for training Sailors to conduct military funeral honors and coordinating with families to provide funeral honors on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where he is stationed. 

“Even after I left the guard, I never really walked away from that community,” said Sherwood. “I’ve helped with a lot of the color guard events at every command I’ve been at since. It’s a part of me and I am glad I can still have a piece of that everywhere I go.”



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