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In the eyes of an Honor Guardsman

Senior Master Sgt. Gerald J. Depotsie Jr., the maintenance squadron fabrication supervisor and dedicated member of the 128th Refueling Wing Base Honor Guard since 1995, was announced as the Wisconsin Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year.

Senior Master Sgt. Gerald J. Depotsie Jr., the maintenance squadron fabrication supervisor and dedicated member of the 128th Refueling Wing Base Honor Guard since 1995, was announced as the Wisconsin Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year.

MILWAUKEE -- The morning dew made the air dense. A blanket of dreary clouds concealed the sky and countless gravestones rested in the field in parallel rows. Gerald Depotsie stood along the road in his pleated and pressed service uniform, waiting for the arrival of the hearse. The crackle of gravel beneath tires sounded from the distance and the shiny, black vehicle soon became visible. Once parked, Depotsie approached the vehicle, ready to perform his Honor Guard duties.

Senior Master Sgt. Gerald J. Depotsie Jr., the maintenance squadron fabrication supervisor and dedicated member of the 128th Refueling Wing Base Honor Guard since 1995, was announced as the Wisconsin Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year.

Depotsie's military career began here at the 128 ARW in 1983. He served as a corrosion control technician for six years.  In 1990, Sergeant Depotsie became an aircraft structural repair mechanic when the corrosion control and sheet metal shops combined under the Rivet Work Force Program, he said.

However, Depotsie's affiliation with the Honor Guard did not come along until a few years into his enlistment.

Depotsie's first encounter with the detail was during a family member's funeral service, he said. Because the deceased was a military member, the Honor Guard was responsible for presenting honors to the next of kin.  He was awed by the detail's precision and skill and decided to join the 128 ARW Base Honor Guard here.

Nearly 20 years later, Depotsie's allegiance to the Honor Guard has only grown.

"I love everything about the Honor Guard," said Depotsie. "The satisfaction of being a part of the detail and honoring a service member is awesome."

However, a detail such as Honor Guard takes practice to master.

The Honor Guard team practices mainly on unit training assembly weekends, but has also practiced during the week and during members' free time when necessary.

"It takes practice to master the routines," said Depotsie. "It's all repetition. The Honor Guard is also voluntary so it takes a dedicated individual to be a part of it."

Over the years, the 128 ARW Base Honor Guard has performed in countless events including sporting events, funerals and parades.

"It's definitely a time commitment," said Depotsie. "You need to be willing to give up your personal time."

Depotsie recalled recording the time he devoted to the Honor Guard in one year.

"I remember looking back and realizing I had spent something like 150 hours in a vehicle to get to the services and drove over 16,000 miles," said Depotsie "And that wasn't even that busy of a year!"

When asked what motivated him to keep volunteering for the Honor Guard, Depotsie said, "I just think of what that service member had given up. I am giving up a couple hours of my day to honor that person who gave a part of their life. It's a small sacrifice on my part."

In his civilian life, Depotsie finds time to give back to the local community. He has participated in several charitable events including the Special Olympics, the WWII Honor Flight, and several other seasonal events. Depotsie has also volunteered time as the South Milwaukee High School wrestling coach.

As the state winner of the award Depotsie is now in the running for the 2015 Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year at national-level and is currently anticipating further notification of the results.

In his free time, Depotsie likes to spend time at his cabin in northern Wisconsin with his best friend and loyal companion Maddie, an 18-month-old yellow lab. There he can take a break from his hectic life and reminisce on his accomplishments.