Honor Guard marches with pride
By Pamela Walker
Ask any Division of Prisons Honor Guard member why they do what they do and most will tell you itís a reward like no other.
The team, made up of officers of all ranks from facilities throughout the state, represents the Department at funerals for employees, memorial services and conferences. The Honor Guard practices once a month and is on call all the time, including holidays and weekends, should it get a request to take part in a funeral. The members donít get a paycheck for their service, but they say there are other rewards. "Every time weíre there for a family, I get a feeling that fills me up inside, a feeling that canít be taken away," said Sgt. Christable Johnson of Foothills CI.
"It is one of the best things thatís ever happened to me," said Sgt. Sterling Primus of Piedmont CI. "The appreciation we get from families is a total reward." Primus is one of the veterans on the Honor Guard, serving 11 years.
When you see the Honor Guard in action itís obvious members take their assignments seriously. They march, salute and stand at attention with precision. Colonel Leonard Hatley, commander of the Honor Guard, runs a tight ship and takes pride in the teamís discipline and professionalism. Hatley said one of the reasons they make such a good team is they have a special camaraderie. "Many who have left (the Honor Guard) for one reason or the other cried, because they hated leaving the family," said Hatley, a captain at North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women and Honor Guard member for 11 years.
Currently, the Honor Guard has nine vacancies out of 32 positions. The members are from different facilities all over the state. They are broken down into three sections, east, west and central so they can respond to requests in their areas more efficiently.
To become a member, staff must first submit a letter of interest to their facility administrator. If facility approval is granted, the application can be sent to the Honor Guard administrators. The applications are screened based on years of service with the department, job performance and whether or not the applicant has any prior experience with an honor or color guard in the military.
"I feel like we are an elite group," said Lt. Ronnie Smith of Odom Correctional Institution. "We like to think we set a standard for other staff to follow." Smith was recently appointed major for the Honor Guard, which means he is the second in command. He said when he first came to the Department eight years ago he was very impressed with the group and it became his goal to join. He reached that goal in 1994.
Charles Stewart, chief of security for the Division of Prisons, was one of the original members of the Honor Guard, which was commissioned by Governor Jim Martin in 1986. "Iím really proud of the quality of people we have who unselfishly give their time," said Stewart. Like many of the members, Stewart says being a member of the Honor Guard gave him a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment like nothing else. Stewart served nine years on the team and has been with the Department 20 years.
Officer Kathy Perdue, one of four women on the Honor Guard, works at Caswell Correctional Center and has been on the team just under a year. Perdue says the officers on the unit treat her and the other female officers on the team like members of the family. However, she says she does notice people at funerals looking at them differently. "Mostly, I think, they are just looking at us with interest," said Perdue. "I think people recognize the extra effort and sacrifices weíre making to become more well-rounded officers."
Since its start, the Honor Guard has performed at about 220 services. One sentiment that appeared to be shared by all the Honor Guard members was that the appreciation they receive from families is the biggest reward.
While they say it is hard for many to plan their funerals, the members encourage officers to go ahead and make a request that the Honor Guard be in attendance at their service. The request can be placed in an employee file. Families can also make a request for the Honor Guard when a loved one who is an officer or retired officer dies.
The Honor Guard members are:
|Col. Leonard Hatley, NCCIW
Maj. Ronnie Smith, Odom CI
Sgt. Franklin Primus, Piedmont CI
Officer Terry Marsh, NCCIW
Lt. James Morgan, Southern CI
Officer William Gibson, Hoke CI
Sgt. Utumalama Gilmore, Polk YI
Officer Harry Poteat, Caswell CC
Sgt. Adrienne Gibson, Harnett CI
Officer Thomas Flemming, Warren CI
Sgt. James Goodson, Western YI
Officer Johnny Mooney, Foothills CI.
|Officer Everett Green, Sanford
Sgt. Kimberly Johnson, Craven CI
Sgt. Edgar Barrow, Tyrrell WF
Lt. Warren Downing, Pasquotank CI
Lt. Charles Brown, Pamlico CI
Lt. Harry Clay, Harnett CI
Sgt. Christoble Johnson, Foothills CI
Officer Dale McCoyle, Avery-Mitchell CI
Lt. Daniel Creson, Avery-Mitchell CI
Officer Robert Taylor, Dan River PWF
Officer Kathy Perdue, Caswell CC
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