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Military Members Support Ford Funeral in California

By Seaman Damien E. Horvath, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

PALM DESERT, Calif., Dec. 30, 2006 – More than 500 military members are supporting the California portion of the state funeral for former President Gerald R. Ford here yesterday and today. The military is providing ceremonial service, security and logistical support to honor and pay tribute to the 38th commander-in-chief and the Ford family.

Personnel from the Armed Forces Honor Guard, based in Washington D.C., served as members of the guard of honor and as body bearers during the arrival ceremony at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church yesterday.

“This is very somber time for all of us in the color guard,” said Marine Pfc. Trae Shelton, of the Armed Forces Honor Guard. “We conduct ourselves with the highest reverence, professionalism, and honor to pay our respects to former President Ford and his family.”

Air Force Airman 1st Class Lyle S. Carter, also from the Armed Forces Honor Guard, added, “It was a way for me to salute the former president and his legacy.”

Participation in the state funeral impacted all branches of the Armed Services at many levels.

“As part of the Old Guard, we are proud to represent the Army as a whole,” said Spc. John S. Tilley, of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the The Old Guard, from Fort Myer, Va. “This is our chance to show our respect for the passing of the former president.”

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band from Twentynine Palms, Calif., provided musical honors and hymns for the ceremony.

“I am honored to be here paying homage and tribute to President Ford,” said Master Sgt. Grady May, bandmaster for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band at Twentynine Palms. “Every time the casket is moved, we render presidential honors, as well as play various hymns selected by the Ford family.”

Nearly 350 Marines from Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms are providing security and host support for this phase of the state funeral. The Marine contingent is augmented with nearly 200 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Defense Department civilians.

“The team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have done a phenomenal job of organizing and executing this phase of the state funeral,” said Navy Capt. Mike Tillotson, deputy commander of Joint Task Force National Capital Region. “Their professionalism and pride is evident in every phase of honoring the 38th president and former commander-in-chief.”

Former President Ford died in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Dec. 26 at the age of 93. After a departure ceremony at Palm Springs International Airport today, the remains of President Ford will be flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for the Washington portion of the state funeral.

(Navy Seaman Damien E. Horvath is assigned to Forward Joint Information Bureau Palm Desert.)

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