By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
“This honor guard training camp motto reminds students that those who are honored have given all there is to give. The least an honor guard member can do is to give his or her best in tribute to the deceased police officer or firefighter,” said Randy Kantner, Goshen Police Department Honor Guard member and trainer. The department’s honor guard training camp was formed in 2003. DFL is a separate organization that utilizes the same instructors and takes the training sessions on the road.
It has been estimated that over 500 police officers and firefighters from Michigan have been trained through the Goshen Camp or DFL School. Because honor guard training in Michigan is currently unavailable, Wyandotte Police Officer Daniel Foley, who has been active with honor guards since he joined the force in 1986 and has served as an instructor with the Goshen Honor Guard Camp talked Randy Kantner into bring the training sessions to Michigan, provided, of course, that Foley make the numerous arrangements to accommodate a large class.
Foley admits to being passionate about honor guards from his first day on the job. “The purpose is to prepare and educate the public safety officer on how to properly honor the national colors and the funeral protocol used when honoring a brother or sisters ultimate sacrifice,” said Foley. “The idea is to standardize honors protocol with emphasis on detail and accuracy so officers posses the tools, working knowledge and confidence necessary to handle virtually any detail requested of them.”
The school has a motivational factor for younger officers providing them with honor guard values and traditions. Many veteran officers have testified to a rekindling of the pride that attracted them to the police profession in the first place. The local police department benefits from the pride, appearance and perfection of its team. However, the comfort provided to a family of a deceased officer or firefighter is immeasurable and certainly deserving.
Foley believed in the ideal and principles of the honor guard philosophy and was determined to make it more readily available to metro Detroit and other Michigan agencies. The one week training camp took Foley nearly six months of planning to guarantees it success. The entire City of Wyandotte and its police administration were 100% supportive and involved in the training. Sessions were held at the local recreation center and Foley made arrangements with St. Patrick Catholic Church and Czopek Funeral Home for a simulated funeral service, which is the culmination of the five day honor guard training session. In addition to the many downriver police departments with participating officers, other members came from Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw sheriffs’ and police departments.
“We do absolutely everything we can think of from start to finish to duplicate a funeral service for a police officer or firefighter that dies in the line of duty,” said Foley. In fact, Denise Scarbrough was asked to participate to lend authenticity to the training, something she was anxious to do to help train more officers for the detail that she appreciated so much at her husband Mike’s funeral. Sgt. Scarbrough of the Wayne County Airport Police died in a traffic accident in 2005.
Last year’s program was a resounding success and this year’s training camp scheduled for August has been full for months with other departments begging for a chance to get in. Classes are five days with eight hours per day of intensive, progressive and physical learning. The final exam will again consist of a simulated “full honors funeral,” including a processional to Mt. Carmel Cemetery for final interment and honors. Each member will receive duty assignments that require them to properly plan and execute in order to graduate. “I wish I could do this four times a year so more Michigan agencies can take advantage of the training,” commented Foley. “But it is too much for one department or community to handle on its own. Hopefully another department or two will follow our lead and talk to Randy Kantner about establishing some training in their part of the state.”
Because of Dan’s extensive experience with honor guard teams and contact with the affected families, he understands the awesome appreciation families have for every member of the detail. As Dan talked about making sure that his honor guard teams understand the level of sometimes unspoken appreciation by the families, I couldn’t help but wonder if he truly understands the gratitude that his graduating classes have for his efforts. They serve on their local honor guard teams with pride because of Foley’s determination to make training classes more readily available