The Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force (LODD) is training 72 hopefuls that look to be a part of the Honor Guard and this week will put them to the test.
From Monday, Sept. 9, through Wednesday, Sept. 11., the Texas LODD has been hosting training, which serves as a school where they cover honor guard funeral planning, preparation and etiquette.
Monday was the honor guard presentation, where Taylor Fire Department Engineer Matt Whisenant went over things like basic commands, steps and formations.
“If you’re honoring someone, it doesn’t matter who’s in the crowd,” Whisenant told the trainees. “You’re honoring who’s fallen”
The trainees consist of men and women from city departments such as fire, police and even military from all over the state of Texas.
Cris Martinez is a sergeant that is apart of the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC). While the TABC has only been apart of honor guard training for a year, he said he feels a responsibility to represent Texas.
“As an agency, we represent all the people who we work for,” he said. We represent the people of Texas.”
The TABC, which has been around since 1935, sent 10 people to participate in the Honor Guard Academy.
Their group leader Roger Devine said the TABC doing honor guard has changed the face of their agency.
“I think our current leadership [is the change],” he said. “They have more of a strong military background and I think it gave TABC a big push to have the honor guard in place.
Whisenant says the classes are to help the trainees build skills new skills.
“We’ve got people from all types of regions of the state,” he said. “Today [Monday] is when we go over movements.”
Tuesday is the day trainees learn marching and flags. On Wednesday, the trainees participate in a mock line of duty death funeral, where they go through the motions of planning and executing a line of duty death funeral.
The trainees will also march in the Patriot Day presentation held Wednesday, Sept. 11. Whisenant said he thinks it helps the trainees become more focused.
“I think it helps more with their level of commitment and overall involvement,” he said. “I think it ignites a passion in them and makes them thankful they could [honor the fallen] in front of their community.”
On Thursday, the participants will undergo a final test, where they will be tested on all the learned skills over the week. Once they pass that test, they will be apart of graduation.
CEO of the Texas LODD Wendy Norris started the organization in 1999 after a life-threating injury while working in the fire department. The organization started as a ministry geared around service.
That service became of dire need two years later on the day of Sept.11, 2001. After going on rides with the first responders months before that day, she was called to help with grieving services after the tragic events.
“Thirteen of the first responders I worked with died that day,” she said. “I think what the trainees will take away will be being apart of the event [that will honor those fallen].”
The Texas LODD honors their 20th anniversary this year. With those years, come changes and while Norris’ involvement has stretched to national emergencies, such as the El Paso shooting and even the explosion in West in 2013, she still believes the start of her organization was through divine intervention.
“When I went through that injury, I wondered, ‘why did I live’,” she said. “I should have and it would have been [financially] easier and easier on my [fire unit]. But my story has helped me be able to help those affected by line of duty deaths, families and [state institutions].”