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Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard serves with pride, professionalism

The group was formed in 2006 and currently has six members.

Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard
Members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard takes part in a memorial in honor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Alexandria Echo Press file photo

ALEXANDRIA โ€” The Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard was formed in 2006, and since that time its members have done their part to pay tribute to peace officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Either assisting at line-of-duty funerals or ceremonies for National Peace Officers Memorial Day, the six members of the honor guard serve always with pride and professionalism.

There are several different areas of military-style honors in which the honor guard members, who are all sheriff's deputies, are trained.

"There is military drill and ceremony, posting and presenting the colors, the ceremonial volley โ€” some call it the 21-gun salute, and for law enforcement it's considered the three volleys," explained Sgt. Ron Boyden, who acts as honor guard commander. "There's also the flag and casket detail and the ceremonial guard duty, which would either be guarding the casket or urn, or standing guard at any of the prominent doorways leading into a church or event center."

The honor guard trains with the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association to become proficient in each of these areas, most recently at a week-long stint at Camp Ripley in September.

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Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard
The Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard takes part in a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony in Alexandria.
Alexandria Echo Press

"The important part of that is that we're all training together, even though some of us have been on for many years," Boyden said. "It still is an opportunity for us to train together so all of us know what each other are doing."

They also train together monthly to keep their skills sharp, he said.

"Many of these skills, as you know, if you don't use them regularly, you lose it a little bit," Boyden said. "The importance of the detail in some of the movements is critical, so we always want to be at our best."

The honor guard will sometimes arrive hours before an event is scheduled to take place so they can do several practice turns.

"Some of them we use verbal commands, and some we do completely silent, so that practice ahead of time is so we can get in lockstep and perform as best we can," Boyden said.

There are several areas that need to go into consideration for each ceremony, he said, including some people might not think about.

"Height makes a difference because with the flags, especially the American flag, we want to (give it) to the tallest person, so that it is the highest," Boyden said. "So you'll see at our events, those shorter among us are generally on a rifle detail versus a flag detail."

Boyden said that while there is a structure within the honor guard, its members don't recognize the individual rank of each deputy within it.

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The Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard
The Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard presents the colors at a hockey game at the NorthStar Sports Complex on Friday, Jan. 28
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

"Basically we're all equal within the honor guard, but the structure is there for logistics, basically," he said.

Within the ranks, Boyden acts as patrol sergeant, while the other five members are patrol deputies.

In addition to Boyden, the honor guard currently consists of Kevin Wiseman, who is vice commander, Bob Peper, Bryan Ziegler, Grant Larson and Nate Larson.

"We're a tight group," Boyden said.

To become a member, Boyden said a deputy must submit a letter of interest and be willing to make a five-year commitment to serving, and also must previously have expressed an interest in attending law enforcement funerals and local events where the honor guard is present.

The honor guard is funded by donations from private individuals as well as community organizations. "We're always willing to accept donations from people to help us upgrade our uniforms, or if we have new members โ€ฆ we've needed to outfit those members," Boyden said.

This can cost between $1,500 and $2,000, he said.

Expenses also go toward being able to attend law enforcement funerals and other ceremonies.

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"There is not a specific budget within the sheriff's office for the guard, but we do have a fund with community and private donors that we can use for some of those expenses," Boyden said.

If anyone wants to make a donation to the honor guard, it can be submitted through the sheriff's office, but it must be specified as going toward the honor guard, or it will go into the general budget, he said.

If there is one thing the members of the honor guard feel about being able to serve on it, it is pride, Boyden said.

"A big part of it is knowing that we're there representing the office, and helping a family on the worst day of their life, likely, for a line-of-duty funeral," he said.

For more information about the Douglas County Sheriff's Honor Guard, visit https://www.co.douglas.mn.us/honor-guard .

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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