Honor Guard lays to rest Airmen killed in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Madelyn Waychoff
  • Air Force Honor Guard Public Affairs
The tradition of laying to rest one's own carries with it the heavy burden of knowing a fellow Airman and hero has just departed. While this is the everyday job of ceremonial guardsmen, sometimes a death hits home a little harder and makes a lasting impact on those who take a part in the funeral.

The recent passing of two active-duty Airmen deployed to Iraq and buried this week in Arlington National Cemetery was one of those times. Maj. Troy Gilbert, an F-16 pilot killed Nov. 27, and Capt. Kermit Evans, an explosive ordnance disposal flight commander killed Dec. 3, were buried Dec. 11 and 12 respectively by ceremonial guardsmen at the Air Force Honor Guard, Bolling Air Fore Base, D.C.

"We're in the military, and we hear about people who have died. But if you're actually out there rendering final honors to someone -- that's when it really hits home that these people gave up their lives for their country," said 1st Lt. Brent Mundie, officer in charge at the funerals. "They are real, and they have real families who are devastated -- and both of these men left behind young children."

While the majority of the funerals the Honor Guard carries out are for Air Force retirees, in just this year there have been 35 active-duty funerals.

"But that's not to say any one funeral is more important than another," said Airman 1st Class Peter Ising, ceremonial guardsman. "It's an honor to be able to do what we do, but sometimes it's difficult. This was the first funeral I've been a part of where I've actually been close enough to see the family's faces, and it was very emotional. This whole experience made me realize that what I do doesn't begin to compare to what these Airmen did, but if I put in the extra effort I can help the family have the memory of the perfect funeral honoring their loved one."

The funerals were full honors, meaning the Air Force Band ceremonial brass, a 20-person flight, firing party, casket bearers, commander of troops, guidon, color team and officer in charge attended. In addition, more than 200 family, friends and coworkers were present. Captain Evans was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery, heroism and meritorious service during his service. Airman Ising read the narration presenting the Bronze Star.

Major Gilbert was assigned to the 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz., and was deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq. He was flying in direct support of coalition ground combat operations when his plane crashed 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Captain Evans was the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Flight commander at Cannon AFB, N.M. He was killed as a result of a Marine helicopter emergency water landing near the shore of Lake Qadisiyah in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.