Delivering peace, honoring a legacy

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Standing motionless with eyes forward, she begins to see tears in the crowd as they stare back at her. Clearing her mind of the surroundings she focuses on her training, anticipating what will come next.

Then it happens, a command is let out signaling her next move. The audience watches ever more intently as she marches forward and begins to fold an American flag. Perfecting every precise motion, with precision she passes the flag to where its journey will end and with it, a final salute.

From the demanding training to the late nights providing service at a funeral, few think about what it takes to be part of a base honor guard, but for Senior Airman Chardonnay Taylor, 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron honor guardsman, it's what she has been preparing for since high school.

"While I was in school, I joined the Junior Reserve Officers Training team and fell in love instantly," Taylor said. "From the drills to the marches I enjoyed the lifestyle, so once I was done with school I went to the recruiter to see what my options were."

Unaware honor guard was a career option after five months, the California native started by beginning her training as a global command and control systems administrator.

"In technical training I had the opportunity to witness the Air Force honor guard perform, and it was amazing," Taylor said. "I knew I had already started one path but I didn't want that to hold me back so I did my research."

Though determined, Taylor was unable to meet the Air Force honor guard requirements of being a height of 5 feet 8 inches. Refusing to be stopped by just a few inches, Taylor finally found a way to be part of the 42-year-old tradition when she arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"Ramstein was my first duty station and while here I learned that there was a base honor guard that didn't have a height restriction," Taylor said. "So I figured after I master my job I would I would continue toward my dream."

Finally part of a culture she has worked toward since high school, Taylor began her training to earn the title of honor guardsman.

"Not anyone can be a part of the base honor guard," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Dore, 786th Force Support Squadron honor guardsman. "They must have the respect, discipline and bearing needed to honor those who deserve it. We constantly train, improving our Airmen physically and mentally."

Now two years and 57 details later Taylor has proved to be an indispensable addition to the team.

"She is my go-to person," Dore said. "She helps train all the new Airmen that come in, and I know I can count on her to get the mission done."

To Taylor, honor guard meant more than paying respects and learning new skills. It's is what taught her to overcome her fears and grow, not only as a leader but as a person.

"Before the military, my self-confidence was incredibly low," Taylor said. "I wasn't able to talk to people, stand in a crowd or work with anyone. I was always afraid. Now I am leading, teaching Airmen how to better themselves, presenting flags at funerals and to retirees. Honor Guard has really brought the best out of me by showing me what I am capable of, and I am more than grateful for it."

Taylor started her career with the determination to live her dream, and while there were some bumps in the road she is now honoring those who came before her and upholding the Air Force heritage one salute at a time.