Tallahassee native assigned to Navy Honor Guard, has special responsibility for Memorial Day

“My job is to render final military honors as well as firing cannons for arrival and retirement ceremonies,” Seaman Wesley Hawkins, who graduated from Lincoln High School in 2012, said. (Photo: Navy Office of Community Outreach)
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By: Pat Mueller | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 20, 2020

WASHINGTON (WCTV) — A Tallahassee native has a special responsibility providing funeral honors for fallen sailors this Memorial Day: Seaman Wesley Hawkins is a member of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard.

“My job is to render final military honors as well as firing cannons for arrival and retirement ceremonies,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins, who graduated from Lincoln High School in 2012, said the values required to succeed in the Navy are ones that were instilled in him in his hometown.

“I learned that if you’re going to do something, give it 100 percent or don’t do it all,” Hawkins said.

The Navy Office of Community Outreach said the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard, which was established in 1931, is the official ceremonial unit of the U.S. Navy. It's based at the Naval District Washington Anacostia Annex in Washington, D.C.

The Ceremonial Guard's main task is to represent the Navy in Presidential, Joint Armed Forces, Navy and public ceremonies under the thorough eye of the highest-ranking officials of the United States and foreign nations, including royalty, according to Navy officials.

"Sailors of the Ceremonial Guard are hand selected while they are attending boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois," the Navy Office of Community Outreach said. "Strict military order and discipline, combined with teamwork, allow the Ceremonial Guard to fulfill their responsibilities with pride and determination. They are experts in the art of close order drill, coordination and timing."

Hawkins said he takes pride in receiving full honors in his platoon and being a mentor for junior guardsmen.

“I am most proud of this accomplishment because I learned everything there was to learn in my platoon and I was able to teach what I learned to junior guardsmen,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins is following in his family's footsteps through his military service.

“My father served in Army, all of my uncles retired from the Air Force and my older cousins currently serves in the Air Force,” Hawkins said. “It means everything to me to carry on this tradition.”

Navy officials said the Ceremonial Guard includes a drill team, color guard, casket bearers and a firing party.

The casket bearers carry fallen Navy sailors to their final resting grounds, whether it is in Arlington National Cemetery or another veteran's cemetery. All Navy funerals at the Arlington National Cemetery feature the 21 Gun Salute, which is the ultimate sign of respect at military funerals.

“Being chosen out of hundreds of people to be a part of the Ceremonial Guard is an honor,” Hawkins said. “It has been one of the most humbling experiences. I’ve met the President of the United States, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and several other higher enlisted personnel in the Navy as well as having the opportunity to participate in the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day festivities and the World Series parade."

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