The funeral ceremony has often served as a means of mourning, remembering, and honoring those who have passed, and as a country some of the most formal and revered ceremonies are held for those in military service, as well as police officers and civil servants. Those who carry out these ceremonies are called the honor guard.
An honor guard is comprised of a group of highly trained individuals who act as ceremonial guards during funerals, as well as parades and other events. While most countries around the world have some organization similar to honor guard, a general rule across borders is that members must meet a very stringent set of requirements. Members of an honor guard must dress in full military uniform and observe protocol. Generally, members must also present exemplary behavior and a commitment to duty to even be considered for the position. Often honor guards are chosen on the basis of physical aptitude, as many ceremonies require the ability to perform very precise choreographed movements. Honor guards are often representatives of the military or law enforcement as a whole, so the ability to accurately present the detailed ceremonies is a must.
There are a number of ceremonies attributed to the United States honor guard, one of the most prominent being the twenty-one-gun salute. The twenty-one-gun salute is one of the most ceremonial honors that can be paid to an officer that has fallen in the line of duty. The ceremony is performed by a sequence of three volleys fired by a team of seven honor guards, equaling twenty-one shots fired. The tradition of the salute began as early as the 14th century with cannon fire, although it was originally seven canon shots made at sea from ships. Because there was a greater supply of gunpowder and canons on land, land based salutes were raised to twenty-one. This tradition has carried on through the centuries and is now preformed with a variety of firearms today.
Honor guards have served throughout the history of this country as the arbiters of ceremony for military and law enforcement alike. Most members go through frequent training to make sure that their actions honor both the traditions they are upholding, as well as the officers of the past, present and future.
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