Opening Day Honors
By Staff Sgt Jenna Hildebrand, 128th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published April 10, 2012
MILWUAKEE -- Airman 1st Class Jared Hildebrand of the 128th Air Refueling Wing's Honor Guard, made his Honor Guard debut in front of 46,000 baseball fans at the Brewers Opening Day at Miller Park Stadium.
During the pre-game introductions, the players of the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers were announced. Hildebrand, alongside his fellow Honor Guard members, Airman 1st Class Chris Petty, Master Sgt. Dave Coker and Staff Sgt. Luis Velazquez, marched shoulder-to-shoulder along the Miller Park warning track on their way to their post in right center field.
Color guards representing the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard also marched in perfect formation from the tunnel entrance in the right field corner onto the pristine, manicured grass that is a Major League Baseball outfield.
As all five branches marched to positions spread out evenly in the outfield, Hildebrand kept his head lowered just enough that the brim of his service hat shielded his eyes from the enormity of the ballpark and the thousands of baseball fans watching his every step. "I was a little nervous," he said.
However, the four Honor Guardsmen's solemn expressions masked any nerves that they had. "We've practiced all week for this," Hildebrand added.
The Brewers Opening Day game against their Central Division rival and defending World Series Champion Cardinals was Hildebrand's and Petty's first big event they have performed in the Honor Guard.
Coker, the most seasoned and experienced member of the foursome, said he had total confidence in his young Airmen's skills.
As Joseph Attanasio, father of the Brewers Chairman and Principal Owner Mark Attanasio, began the National Anthem, the Milwaukee crowd hushed and Velazquez automatically lowered the Wisconsin state flag to the position of "present arms." Hildebrand and Petty simultaneously also maneuvered their weapons to "present arms."
Far off in the outfield, the ranks of the color guards stood stoic and unwavering under Miller Park's big screen, facing the full rosters of Brewers and Cardinals players who were aligned along the first and third base foul lines.
As Attanasio finished singing and fireworks burst in the air over centerfield, Velazquez brought the Wisconsin state flag to "order arms" and Coker quietly commanded his team to perform a right pinwheel turning maneuver. The Honor Guard stepped off the field with precision, displaying the control and discipline instilled in them since their enlistments began.