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Arlington Honor Guard Called Upon Again

By Melissa Newton, CBS 11 News
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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – It is training they hope to never have to use, but this year the Arlington Police Department’s Honor Guard has been called upon four times, to pay final respects to a fallen officer.

Officer Jillian Smith will be laid to rest on Tuesday.

Smith is the second Arlington police officer killed in the line of duty in 2010.  Officer Craig Story was the first. He died in January.

The department lost four sitting officers in 2010.

Lt. David Kissinger and Officer Shonda Mack Tella also died, both unexpectedly of natural causes.

For each funeral, the Honor Guard is there to give their fallen friend a hero’s tribute.

“There’s zero room for error,” said Sgt. Sebastein Peron. “We want to do it right.”
“You don’t get a chance to do it over,” said Sgt. Jill Hummel. “You get one shot at it, and it’s got to be perfect.”

If practice makes perfect, this Honor Guard has unfortunately had enough experience in 2010 to achieve excellence.

“This will be our fourth funeral for our fallen officers in the Arlington Police Department,” Peron said. “In the 15 years that I’ve been here, it’s unprecedented.”

“We’re ready for something like this because you have to be,” said Detective Troy Medina who joined the Honor Guard when it was created in 1985. “Obviously no, we don’t ever want to have to do this, we don’t.”

“It’s hard and that’s when you get to dig down deep and realize why you’re here,” Hummel said, “When there’s a loss like that, this is something that we can do for the family for the department.”

It is a duty the guard does not take lightly, paying tribute to the officers who have lost their lives, whether on-duty or off.

“Everything we do is for the family,” Medina said. “We try to assist by letting them know through our actions, the honor guard, what they mean to us.”

“I think it’s important to have an honor guard unit in place in order to honor those officers who have died in the line of duty,” Peron said. “Certainly when you have a situation like we have with Officer Smith, you want to send that officer off with dignity and respect.”

“The purpose of what we do is to replace pain and grief with awe,” Hummel explained. “I think in what we do for a living we want to help and give.”

The Guard is made of officers in the department who volunteer their time and their talents.

There are three different units who work as a team, a firing squad, a color guard, and a flag and casket detail.

“It’s a very unselfish level of dedication that we give, but it’s our way of giving back,” Peron said, “not only to the family, but in doing so we represent the police department and the City of Arlington.”

While the call is one they wished would never come, it is one for which they train.  “We stay committed to the cause,” Peron said. “For each funeral we give the same amount of time and preparation.”

It is a duty they will once again fulfill next Tuesday, when they start the new year off, with a final salute to Officer Jillian Smith.

“It’s basically giving them an honorable burial.” Said Medina.

“Thanking them for what they did,” Peron said, “and the sacrifice that she [Officer Smith] made on that day, not only for the police department but for the community.”

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