Honor Guard dedicates wall to Airmen lost 15 years ago
by Senior Airman Andrea Thacker
The MacDill Honor Guard is preserving its heritage by dedicating a memorial display in remembrance of past members of the elite squad.
Among those honored are Senior Airman Barry Larson and Airman 1st Class Thomas Beckett. Well liked by their peers, they were studious and professional, yet humble Airmen. Sadly, their lives were tragically cut short by a drunken driver in 1987. Upon their untimely death, the base's admiration and respect was evident with the outpouring of support during their memorial service.
The new display covers a wall in the Honor Guard building and honors the late Airmen with photographs of the individuals standing proudly in their uniforms. Shells from a 21 gun salute and two Honor Guard ceremonial hats surround a plaque with the words 'BEST of the BEST' that dates March 29, 1987. One of the shelves holds two weathered flags, which were neatly folded during the funeral some 15 years ago. These were recently given to the honor guardsmen from the parents of Airmen Larson and Beckett.
Before the new display was built, the HG members had these items showcased on a bookshelf in the office.
The Larson and Beckett award, which was established in 1999, is bestowed annually upon members of MacDill's Honor Guard team who are the epitome of the Air Force's core values -- integrity, service and excellence. The award's name keeps their memory alive, while inspiring current Honor Guard members to continue in the tradition of excellence.
Staff Sgt. Eriberto Ortega, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, won the current Larson Beckett and said he was honored to have been chosen.
In life, Larson and Beckett took the time to mentor and train fellow Honor Guard members such as Tech. Sgt. Dennis Fontenot.
"Airmen Larson and Beckett were real outgoing and high-spirited individuals," said Sergeant Fontenot. "They loved the Air Force and were in fact the epitome of 'true blue'."
"For an award like this, it deserves better reputation and it was a privilege to help make that possible," said Master Sgt. Charles Greer, noncommissioned officer in charge MacDill Honors and Ceremonies.
The finishing touches for the memorial will be done soon and the 6th Honor and Ceremonies team are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the end the month.
Although Airmen Larson and Beckett are gone, the memory of two elite honor guardsmen will continue to live on through the annual award and dedication of the memorial in the MacDill Honor Guard building.