Honor the Fallen
Honor the Flag
Modern fire service honor guards were inspired by the 11th century Crusades and the Knights of St. John. During battle when the knights were attacked with fire many of the bravest warriors put themselves between the danger and their comrades by battling the blaze and saving their fellow knights who had caught fire and were burning alive. The brave and heroic actions of these particular men were awarded with an eight-pointed cross as a badge of honor. In the 1530’s, the Island of Malta was given to these courageous knights who then adopted the eight-pointed cross as the symbol to adorn their flag. These knights formed a legion of elite troops that were dedicated to preserve and guard the burial grounds of their fallen comrades. They believed that there was no greater call of duty than that of honoring their fallen brothers and protecting them on their final journey. This is the origin story for fire service honor guards, the Knights of St. John started this tradition and it has stood the test of time.
The following is the origin story of the Central Arizona Honor Guard (CAHG).
Born of a desire to embrace, reinforce, and sustain the Brotherhood that the Knights of St. John started, the Central Yavapai Fire Honor Guard was conceived by CYFD Members Services in 2009. The original eight CYFD members met to brainstorm our mission, our purpose, and our scope of service. Rob Zazueta, who was the Chino Valley Fire Honor Guard Commander, joined us so that we could ensure that Central and Chino were on the same path because we knew that we would be calling on each other to serve in times of need. Among many things, we decided that we would remain non-profit, non-political, and always voluntary with our goal being to represent our respective departments in the highest fashion. Rob Z. reminisced about the origin of CVFD HG that “shortly after we received our uniforms, we got the word that CVFD Fire Marshall David Wharton was diagnosed with terminal cancer with short time remaining. When we went to visit David at his home, he started telling us how he wanted his funeral ceremony to go and wanted the HG to take lead... The ceremony was very touching to all of us and it was then, that our organization (CVFD) really bought in to the importance of the group... Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined this journey leading us to where we are today.”
It became apparent early on, that formal training was absolutely necessary. Some of our members had prior military service and training in marching and facing movements, but many of us did not. Rob Duplessis, who was the CYFD Honor Guard Commander, arranged for training with the DFL Honor Guard Training school in Goshen, Indiana and in September of 2010 we dove into this new experience. Six days later, we returned to Arizona with knowledge on proper flag formation and presentation, facing movements, marching, and flag law. We came home with knowledge on how to perform in many of the functions are needed at a funeral. We learned that most of the drill and ceremony that is used by public service honor guards comes from the military and like the various branches of the military who use various techniques, fire and police honor guards vary slightly in technique and style. We soon found that there are even subtle differences between fire agencies and that being able to adapt is even necessary in the honor guard. In Goshen, we were taught a way of doing the movements and then were encouraged to put our own spin on things as needed. Since then we have developed a variety of our own ceremonies and refined our procedures to function in local, state, or national ceremonies. With solid, flexible, and realistic training under our belts we were ambitious, wanting to serve, and willing to practice on a regular basis to keep our movements sharp. We practiced, planned, and prepared in the event that we were asked to present colors at an event or to march in a parade. We spent the time from 2010 to June of 2013 fostering department traditions with retirement ceremonies, reserve academy graduations, and promotional ceremonies. We got our feet wet with a couple of funerals that were out of the area which really helped us to start to embrace our purpose. We felt that were prepared for the inevitable, but we hoped that we would never have to perform our duties at funeral services for any local firefighter.
On June 30th, 2013 the Granite Mountain Hotshots fell in the line of duty and everything changed, we were no longer getting our feet wet. Rather, we found ourselves fully immersed in the honor guard side of a tragedy of national significance. On July 9th we were wide eyed in front of a national audience presenting colors at the memorial service at the Prescott Valley Event Center. From July 10th to July 13th we participated in the burial ceremonies for 10 of the 19 guys (the other nine were flown to their home states) as well as various other related events. The Central Yavapai Fire Honor Guard and Chino Valley Fire Honor Guard worked side by side more than ever before. Hundreds of Honor Guard members traveled from around the country (and some from outside of the US) to serve this community during those dark days. Fire, police, and military honor guard members all served together during these services. We quickly learned how to function seamlessly as a team with five or six different honor guards working together in a single detail. After participating in the various services for the Granite Mountain Hotshots we promised the families that we would be present at the annual fire service memorials to honor their loved ones. We buried their sons and husbands. It is our intention to stand by this obligation forever. In 2014, we traveled with the families of our fallen to Colorado Springs for the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial and then to Emmitsburg, MD for the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial to be “their honor guard” as the names of their loved ones were dedicated for eternity on the granite walls at those memorials. We make it a point on our annual trek to Colorado Springs to visit that particular slab of granite wall before the big ceremony and once again lay our eyes and our hands on their names and remember our fallen.
In early 2016 with the Joint Powers Authority between CVFD and CYFD in our headlights and the Central Arizona Fire Medical Authority coming soon we decided to be preemptive and join the two honor guards early so that we could be ready to operate together in the same uniform when the JPA became official. We joined and became the Central Arizona Honor Guard a single Dedicated, Professional, Vigilant, and Unified team that represents CAFMA under a symbolic Maltese logo of our own. Our mission is to honor our fire service and law enforcement brothers and sisters by ensuring respectful and dignified care of the fallen and their loved ones from the time of the tragedy through funeral services; and by memorializing them annually so that they and their sacrifice are remembered forever. Simultaneously we honor the flag by acting as guardians of the Colors, meaning that we proudly accept the responsibility of protecting, presenting, and posting the American Flag, as we know that we are always under the scrutiny of the veteran who has served under this flag. This mission boils down to read “Honor the Fallen, Honor the Flag” and we are dedicated to it. Our dedication to service is measured by our professionalism, hard work, and attention to detail. Lastly, we strive to represent CAFMA and our Union with pride as we wear our honor guard uniform, patches and badge and carry unit colors with the CAFMA logo.
We do the annual Patriot Run to build our funds for travel costs to the IAFF FFM, for uniform and equipment needs, for a passenger van and box trailer, and various other projects that we are working on. In addition to that we raise funds for travel and lodging costs so that someday we can travel out of state to represent CAFMA at Line of Duty Death services. We feel that it is our duty and obligation to grant the same courtesy to those in the fire family who dropped everything to assist us in our time of need. We have a Chaplain Program with Nick Guzzo and Doug Copenhaver that have been called on for their services many times and are available to our membership for all chaplain type needs. Thanks to the persistence, perseverance, and dedication of Doug Copenhaver and the hard work of all of our band members we have a successful and well respected pipes and drums band. Rick Olson deserves the credit for the success of our Central Arizona Honor Guard Training Camp. Rick is the organizer and lead instructor of this clinic which is the only annual honor guard training in Arizona. He developed it with the idea of not only teaching the fundamentals of our craft to the next generation, but to continue our progress with networking and interagency cooperation among fire, police, and military honor guards.
It seems, in a way, that in the beginning of this journey we did not truly understand our purpose. The realization came, like so many things in the fire service, both during and after our “on the job training”. We have met and had fellowship with other Honor Guards from around the country. We have made many lifelong friendships through tragedy. We have learned what it means to honor the fallen, but to also remind the families of the fallen that they are forever a part of this Fire Family. We have witnessed true pain and sorrow first hand on an immense scale. We have suffered our own personal and individual pain and hardships due to our experience. We have grown closer and become a family within a family.
It is our duty to maintain the virtues of the Knights of St. John, the tradition of the fire service honor guard, and especially to honor our fallen brothers with the same loyalty, dignity, and respect afforded those who are willing to make great sacrifices and courageously risk their lives to protect their community from the ravages of fire. We hope to carry on this tradition for many years to come.
MEET THE HONOR GUARD
JK is married to his wife Melissa who is also a firefighter. They have four kids and one on the way. He has been a firefighter since 1998 and is currently a Captain at Station 50. JK has served as a member of the honor guard since 2010.
Began working for CAFMA in 2010 as a reserve firefighter. He became a full time employee in 2011, a paramedic in 2014 and a member of the honor guard in 2015. He has a daughter in college who who recently became an EMT and is studying to be a doctor.
I have been a full time firefighter for twelve years, on the Honor Guard for eight years. I have been married for 35 years, I have three wonderful kids, 1- Daughter, and 2- Sons.
Reserve FF 1996-1999, Fulltime FF 5/99 – Present, Engineer/ Firefighter, EMT, TRT, Honor guard
Albert Y. Camacho
Married to my wife Karen and father of 5 children. Retired Fire Captain of Central Yavapai Fire District. I served the community of the Tri-Cities area for 28 years. Honor Guard member since 2013.
Married 27 years, Father of 2 boys, Michael 18 and Dominic 11. 13 Years in service full time. Veteran of USN, 6 years of service with an Honorable discharge. Been with the Honor Guard since inception.
Married 35 years, six kids, two grandkids, seventeen years on the job, founding member of the Honor Guard.
Married for 10 years with two kids, I’ve been on the department for 5 years and piping with the band for 2 years.
15 years on the job, currently Engineer at Station 50. Tenor drummer for CAFMA P&D 1 year. Proud father & husband.
The youngest of 10 kids and I grew up in Humboldt. I have been with central for 11 years and the Honor Guard since 2010.
Born and raised in Prescott. 10 years on the job. 7 yrs with CVFD 3 with CAFMA. Firefighter CEP/Hazmat tech. Honor guard since 2010.
14 years full time, Original member of the CVFD honor guard.
I have been on the job for over ten years and am married with one son. I started playing bagpipes in 2012 and our band formed in 2017.
Married 18 years with 2 kids. Daughter 15, Son 8. Captain/Paramedic for 17 ½ years with CAFMA. Station 50 B-Shift. Honor Guard from 2010-Present and Band 2017-Present.
I’m happily married with 2 kids and 2 amazing grand kids. I spent 3 years as a reserve fire fighter and have been in logistics full time for the last 4 years with CYFD/CAFMA. I’m been proudly serving in our Honor Guard for 2 years now.
I have been a Firefighter Paramedic with Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority since January 2017. Privileged to serve on the Central Arizona Honor Guard since April 2017. I have been married to my wife Mandi for 15 years and together we have two boys; Rocco and Max.
Currently holds the rank of Captain and is a 15 year veteran with the Department. Rick has served with the Departments’ Honor Guard since it’s inception in 2010. Rick resides with his wife and two children in Prescott Valley.
Hired by Central Yavapai Fire District in 2002. Currently serving as a Captain/Paramedic. Helped form CYFD's Honor Guard in 2008. I'm am engaged. My fiancé and I have a total of three kids.
Captain/Paramedic: Ross has been a fulltime member of CYFD/CAFMA for 33+ years. He has been an Honor Guard member since the program began in 2010. Ross has been happily married to Suzette Prange for 25+ years.
I've been a firefighter for 10 years. I've been a part of the honor guard/pipes and drums for the last year, and look forward to many more.
Family: Marnee (Spouse), 2 Daughters (Cora, Sabreena). Honor Guard: The beginning of time......... Fire Service: Since June, 2004. Captain/ Paramedic. I like red wine and prefer 80’s music over 90’s.