Law enforcement officers from Douglas County and Carson City joined police and firefighters from Northern Nevada this week in an Honor Guard Training Camp at Fuji Park.
They learned to perform tasks such as presenting the colors, guarding the casket and marching with either an ax or a rifle, depending on the department.
“It kind of gives them a hero’s send-off,” said Gary Denham, a Carson City Sheriff’s deputy. “It’s more for the family and loved ones, showing gratitude for their service.”
Although service is on a voluntary basis, Brian Trute, a firefighter/paramedic with the East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts, said members don’t really have a choice.
“It’s a calling,” he said.
Carson City Sheriff’s Office and Tri-County Gang Task Force investigator Nate Brehm has served for three years on the Honor Guard, which performs ceremonial rites mostly at funerals.
“It’s a way of honoring fallen heroes, the ones who are out there doing their tough job and paid the ultimate sacrifice for public service,” he said. “I can’t think of a better detail or special unit to be involved in than one that honors those who paid the ultimate price.”
Carson City Fire Capt. Dan Albee organized the exercise through DFL Honor Guard Training to carry on traditions that in some cases began hundreds of years ago.
“There came a point when everyone in Northern Nevada was in need of Honor Guard members,” Albee said. “I believe the people are here because it’s in their heart. They believe it’s their duty to their brothers and sisters.”
On Thursday, police practiced the volley of 21 shots traditionally fired over the grave.
Firefighters practiced the ringing of the last alarm, to replicate the bell historically rung to report that the “companies were back in quarters, safe at home.”
During the funeral, a member of the Honor Guard reads from a script as the bell is being rung.
It says it is to pay tribute to the fallen fighter “with the ringing of the last alarm, welcoming our brother home for the last time; a job well done.”
Reno Fire Capt. Spencer Williams has been performing those services in his 17 years as a member of the Honor Guard.
“It’s never easy,” he said. “It’s a sense of honor and duty — the things you would want to have done for you if anything happened. They earned it.”
Carson City Sheriff’s Deputy Derrick Kepler is in his second year in the Honor Guard.
“The largest sacrifice you can give is to give your life,” he said. “That’s what these guys did. They gave everything for me. This is the little part I can give. They deserve the utmost respect.”
The training camp culminated Friday with a mock funeral at First Baptist Church in Carson City.