Lori Fullbright, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa police department's Honor Guard will receive a commendation from the chief Saturday night to mark the team's 40th anniversary.
The Honor Guard helps the families of police officers plan funerals and provides the flag folding ceremony, the 21 gun salute and taps; all those special touches that make an officer's final good-bye, so unique and touching.
Like all officers, the men and women of the Tulsa Police Honor Guard serve the citizens of Tulsa, but they have an added job, a special and difficult one: they serve their fallen brothers and sisters and the families left behind.
Sergeant Mark McKenzie has been playing taps at officer's funerals for 26 years as a member of the Honor Guard.
"There's a purpose behind that. To have you consider all the things rolled into that ceremony," he said. "Why are we there? We're there to honor someone no longer with us. They paid a price and they served with honor."
The honor guard, in their white gloves and hats, are at every officer's funeral, present and retired. Their purpose is to walk with the families during their dark time and give them support. They don't find joy in their job, but do take pride in it.
"It's hard to express. If you watch that teardrop from that person's eye, it pretty much sums it all up," Sergeant McKenzie said.
When Officer Jared Shoemaker was killed at war, Officer Will Toliver was a pallbearer and at that moment, knew he wanted to be part of the honor guard and now, has been for two and a half years.
"It's a calling," he said. "It's not a job and everybody that comes on this team, has a heart for it."
And, it can often be heartbreaking, but knowing they have a higher purpose of serving and bringing peace to the grieving, makes the pain worthwhile.
"If something tragic happens, we're going to take care of them, take care of that family, that's what we do," Officer Toliver said.
And do with a great sense of compassion, love and respect
The honor guard did not change to the navy blue uniforms when the department changed over, deciding instead to keep with the tradition of when they first began in 1971.