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Honor guard members training in Hagerstown hope to never use new skills

September 19, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

View the "Honor Guard Training" slideshow.

HAGERSTOWN -- A couple of dozen firefighters, rescue workers and police officers this week practiced and perfected skills they hope to never use.

The members of local honor guards are now prepared, "to honor and respect the fallen," said Devon Gay of the Hagerstown Firefighters 1605 Honor Guard. "Hopefully, that never happens."

Local honor guards usually travel to Goshen, Ind., for training, said Ed Shindle, commander of the Hagerstown Firefighters 1605 Honor Guard, which hosted the five days of training that ends today.

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This year, the instructors from Goshen came to Washington County because there was a lot of local interest in the training, in part because of the death in the line of duty of Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson, Shindle said.

Nicholson was fatally shot in December 2007 after responding to help the Washington County Sheriff's Department apprehend someone in Smithsburg.

Douglas Pryor, 30, is charged in Nicholson's death and faces the death penalty if convicted.

"Since Nicholson's death, there's been a lot more interest in training for line-of-duty funerals," he said.

The 28 people taking part in training this week included honor guard members from Rockingham County, Va., and Middletown, Del.

In one week, trainers are able to take police officers, firefighters and rescue workers who don't know anything about marking and get them to a level where they can perform ceremonies, Shindle said.

The training, which was held at the former Phoenix Color building adjacent to the Washington County Detention Center, culminates this morning with a mock line-of-duty funeral at a local church.

Bob Maurer has been a member of the Hagerstown Firefighters 1605 Honor Guard since 1995, he said Wednesday.

This week's training helped "immensely" with coordination and teamwork, ensuring that the honor guard's members look uniform, he said.

Gay, one of Maurer's colleagues, said it was good to work with other honor guards, in case the groups ever need to work together.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department is adding members from its judicial and detention division to its honor guard, Deputy 1st Class Dave Izat said.

Izat served with an honor guard during three years with the Army.

"It's truly an honor to carry the colors of our nation or the flag for our state," he said.

The training covers flag etiquette and law, and color guard movements, said Randy Kanter of DFL Honor Guard Training.

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