Ronny Ymbras sits down with the Active duty Honor Guard of the 101st Airborne Division came to visit the National Capital Area Chapter of the 101st Airborne Division Association the night before the annual Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery

The group discusses what Memorial Day means to them, their MOS’, experiences in the honor guard, family ties to the service and more…

TRANSCRIPT – Transcript and Subtitles are generated automatically by YouTube and may contain errors.

good evening vietnam live from lz bunker
this is veterans live show this is
ronnie empress
i serve at 100 first airborne division
in vietnam from december 1967 to
december 1968.
and tonight we have a very special show
we have the honor guard
from fort campbell kentucky with the
101st airborne division
down in washington for the memorial day
services wreath laying and an honorary
service to the fellow
troopers of the 101st airborne division
i’m going to pass the mike around now to
our guests
thank you very much hold on
hey i’m a staff sergeant jay davenport
with i’m the uh one of the ncos
and the 101st airborne division honor
i’m originally from tennessee been with
the 101st
for six years been in the army nine
go ahead i’m a specialist braden chain
i’m from ohio i’m originally part of
bravo one three twenty of second brigade
uh just started honor guard in february
and i’ll pass tomorrow
i’m specialist callum booker um
originally i’m from georgia
but i’m in the honor guard
um my unit is
175 cal and i’m 11 bravo
infantry that’s the one um my name is
specialist xavier gray and i’m coming
from savannah georgia
i’m also an honor guard team and my
original unit is 372nd
ictc unit thank you very much
thank you gentlemen welcome to the show
we’re going to go around the room again
and say uh what was your
reasoning to join or get selected for
the honor garden how does the process go
sergeant jake yeah um
so i
volunteered for to be in the honor guard
which i would say most of the soldiers
in the 101st honor guard
get selected by their unit and they get
to be in the honor guard like yeah yeah
like a lot of like a lot of different
jobs in the army
but i had a background um
with honor guards i served in the third
infantry regiment
the old guard for my first three years
in the army then i moved to fort
campbell and i did four years in
third brigade combat team and then uh
i wanted to be in the division honor
guard so i actually volunteered
and was accepted um
and i’d say most of these guys weren’t
all of you
selected by your your command group your
commander and first sergeant yeah so
yeah that’s how most of that’s how we
get most of the guys but i’d say
the ncos um are selected by uh the
battalions are major and and um
sent over to the honor guard so yeah
that’s about all there is to that
so basically did you guys like
were you surprised when you were
selected and how did you
react to it and did you decide quickly
to do it right away or
um with me being infantry
it was definitely a no-brainer that i
definitely wanted to go to the honor
guard because
i was like yeah i don’t really like it
like that so
i’m gonna try something else if we’re
being 100 honest
so um it was definitely a fast
pull for me i just was like yeah i’m
gonna go ahead and do it
so that’s great
basically same thing with me uh first
start told me one day said hey you’re
division honor guard i’m like all right
don’t know what it is but
worth a shot i’ll i’ll do it
that’s what i was going to say uh most
of the time we get guys
new guys to the honor guard and they
have no idea even what the honor guard
is you know
but that’s how the army works sometimes
in the military in general i guess they
give you an assignment that you might
not know anything about you know how
that goes
and you show up first day and you’re
like all right so what do we do here
and i would say that’s how it goes for
most of the guys that show up to us but
what do you got to say greg
oh and well for me you know my first one
chose me at it like
the whole unit just because of like i
was in honor guard not on a guard but um
i was in a color guard
a unit so i was pretty well at it and
then also with like
funeral details so i asked me to deal
with my movements so
like being high speed as like 80 in
november in a hotel and my company like
they chose me so
i mean it was pretty good experience so
i was i was expecting it
that’s great you guys do a lot of
or some some we actually don’t do
anything i’ll talk about that
so will i okay and i’ll tell you why
because when i got back from
vietnam i got i i didn’t want to go to
back to the 82nd because i had six
months to go and i couldn’t
i wouldn’t not have been deployed again
to vietnam for
a year the minimum term
so i uh wrote my congressman and he
did some work and got me the station
30 miles from home from yonkers new york
to brooklyn
which is real close and uh wound up
in charge of a ceremonial platoon doing
funerals and sometimes two a days
yeah it was like you got to be careful
what you pray for man
you know it’s like that was the worst
duty in my life because even now
i used to have to if the officer wasn’t
available because at that time a lot of
people in the metropolitan area of new
york were
certainly uh there was a lot of deaths
and uh so if they didn’t have an officer
i’d have to
give the flag to the parents or the wife
of the fallen soldier
which uh it was not was not pretty
right you know it’s like interesting how
came about when you said funerals we
sort of like had the same
duties right it’s pretty wacky
okay so here you go you can tell me
your experiences now um i did
one funeral detail at my unit
um i don’t really want to speak on the
situation but we did have
a lost soldier and i was actually a
usher for that detail
but i think i was only a usher because i
really didn’t know him
that well i was fresh in the unit so
everybody kind of got to sit close
together and i was sat on the opposite
and just helped everybody with seating
and stuff so it wasn’t
really a big deal for me because i
didn’t really know him right
but it was cool to kind of just see
exactly what happens in a
army funeral you know
yeah so uh with us in the division honor
guard we
we really don’t do funerals because um
in the across the division if a soldier
were to die that unit will do
will be the honor guard for that
ceremony um and then
if a former soldier
that lives near fort campbell were to
pass away you know for any reason just
of old age or whatever
and they are buried in a military
cemetery and they
they have a military funeral there’s
different units across the division that
are tasked out to go and do those things
and it rotates throughout the battalions
all year long and uh so that’s how that
but in the division honor guard we
do mostly um ceremonies across
the the post itself on base
and uh so we do lots of
changes of command changes of
um promotion ceremonies for
colonels and above retirement ceremonies
colonels and above things like that um
yeah um a rival he’s talking about like
arrivals of
dignitaries we’ll set up flag displays
you know we do all kinds of stuff like
that um
but one of our job
one of our jobs is is not actually
funerals because they
yeah they they rotate that duty across
the the entire division actually
which i i personally have done a lot
when i was in i was in uh 1187
infantry in third brigade and when our
battalion got tasked with doing
funeral details they they came to me
because they knew i had been in the old
guard so they figured i knew how to do
and i did so um i did that for a few
probably did like i don’t know 10 15
funerals something like that
um but yeah anybody got anything else to
save off
about that comment on that
how do you feel when you were selected
to do this well i was
excited i didn’t know what it was so
um i mean i was in i was at 13 bravo
which is what a cannon crew member
there you go the people yeah
yeah but yeah it’s
exciting thing to do and we did a
nashville predators game
we’ll do that nice so yeah we have so
right yeah yeah yeah yep so
yeah it’s pretty exciting glad to be
here doing it
xavier your experience so far
you enjoyed it yeah you’ve been here
what almost well
a year now right i’ve been here for
almost a year i mean i pretty like i
like it a lot honestly it’s just like
the learning experience and just
you know being able to like you know
represent the army in such like a
special way because like i don’t i think
a lot like the honor guard is like
probably like the highlight of like my
army career right
i like it a lot is this the furthest you
ever travel to do one
yes sir honestly yes yes we’re excited
to go to dc
i was i was a little anxious a little
bit because you know it’s just a new
area but like actually like being around
just like venturing out i like it a lot
so that’s great good for you
okay who’s next caleb
yeah so we’ll get there um i was
excited to to join the honor guard team
just because
i’m around infantry all day and then
not only that like i’m around a lot of
calf scouts as well
right so the
the environment around me sometimes it’s
sometimes it’s like oh my god what is
this what are we doing here
so it’s definitely different to come
around these guys and
they have different mosses such as gray
he’s a soft skill
he’s a canon crew member so it’s
definitely different to see
who does what and what goes on in their
actual unit so sometimes we do talk
what used to go on in our units and we
just kind of compare and contrast on
what’s going on but overall just honor
guard period
like grace said it was definitely the
highlight of my army career so far
that’s terrific let me ask you all the
the uh highlight of
your career in this
that’s the best thing you’ve done so far
yeah i guess far as in the other
one yes i mean i’ve only been here since
february so i haven’t done so you might
say this is the best thing so yeah
right yeah right now yeah that’s the
best thing definitely definitely the
best things
dc but other than that
yeah oh yeah hotel airfare yeah yeah
yeah that’s good okay so uh
when you’re out there okay sorry about
when you’re out there and you got a lock
you’re locked in there
and you’re standing there for 35 minutes
45 minutes and it’s 90 degrees
tell me what you’re thinking oh man you
know that’s easy
don’t fall out that is true don’t fall
out i mean don’t drop your rifle
don’t drop the flag man you know yeah
you guys don’t remember that stuff
it was definitely but this is like you
know you got to keep your composure and
just like you know
you got to practice practice made
perfect so you know we’ve been doing
good so far
so keep those knees bent oh yes sir most
definitely okay
and you uh so actually when we were at
the predators game we were standing
there presenting the colors
and i didn’t realize that the cameraman
was right in front of me and when i
finally realized
i was staring into the camera and i was
supposed to be looking straight and i’m
looking at the big screen
i don’t think i’m supposed to be doing
this but it’s too late for me to move
so i kind of just stood there in shock i
was like
damn i’m on a big screen that’s nice
it’s nice so
it was definitely different yeah a lot
of people looking at you so
okay great so tell us not the highlight
low light
the low light low light that’s tough
man that is tough uh i mean
longest day probably a change of command
that was a long day he’s talking about
the division level changes
man that we just did for a two two star
yeah yeah that was that was a that was a
long day yeah
yeah it was hot yeah so we had to settle
experience though
we had to set up state flags on the
that that was probably the most annoying
thing we did that day
like i would have rather just stood
there and watched everybody walk past
we’re setting up so many flags and it’s
so redundant because like all right
we just did five flags on this fence now
we’re gonna go back to another fence and
do another five flags so
that was probably the the lowest part of
the honor guard for me yeah well what
he’s not mentioning is
when you have a division level change a
command ceremony like that
you have like a rehearsal and then you
have a rehearsal
for the rehearsal you know what i’m
talking about
and the entire field has to be set up
exactly how it’s going to be for the
actual day so we had to set up the whole
field for the
ceremony basically three times over
three different days
makes perfect yeah well right right oh
but that’s what he’s talking about but
yeah anyway and uh so this is the
farthest you ever traveled
uh no sir no sir um so i
well my highlight probably of of being
in the honor guard at least
uh was i got to travel to uh bastogne
in december 2019 for the 75th
anniversary of the battle of the bulge
and uh that was definitely it was one of
the highlights of my army career for
sure i’ve
been in nine years and i’ve done some
great things um
got to do so got to have some great
experiences and that’s definitely
that’s definitely uh towards the top of
the list we uh
you know saw some some veterans that had
traveled there some world war ii
veterans is what i’m talking about that
fought in the battle of the bulge
that traveled there to belgium and we
were there representing 101st
we marched in the parade down the
streets of bastogne
with belgian soldiers as well as the u.s
world war ii soldiers who were there
one of them uh vinnie sparranza you ever
met him you know him yeah
yeah yeah yeah yeah he was there uh so
uh yeah it was a great time that was
one of the best things i’ve done that’s
right yeah yeah yeah
yeah you guys going to be uh what’s
going on
okay yeah well on in june late june
around the 24th i believe it is
they’re gonna uh the proclamation was
given out uh for the 101st airborne
division and
the first cavalry division to be awarded
what they call the
aerosol badge and uh to the soldiers
written it previously before before it
became such a thing
right we were doing aerosols when these
kids weren’t they were in diapers well
probably before that
exactly yeah we forget
how old we are at times right guys okay
other than that uh yeah it’s kind of a
special time to go back to fort campbell
for wicked eagles
which is uh actually a few times we went
there in 1988 a 20-year company reunion
and uh the general at the time his name
was uh
campbell i believe no that was in 2010.
general campbell at fort campbell what’s
the deal with that only in the airport
right you know
like come on so point being that uh
they do uh they did a put actually put a
uh screwed the is it the
screaming eagle parachute team they
still have one
oh no no no okay they put that gentleman
at that time
they had to do a jump for us yeah
because it was 20 years out of vietnam
a lot of the guys went back and uh which
quite interesting to uh you know meet
the guys that you haven’t seen
in 20 years so 100 percent airborne
regardless of what they’re doing air
assault they are calvary uh
airborne it’s a uh tell me a little
better division
or outfit in the united states armed
forces even the space
space war whatever they’re going to call
it space force yeah so
the spaced out force yeah okay so
give me your favorite memory so far
about your
duty with ceremonial petunia
oh my god sorry um
uh the highlight i want to say
hmm this is a good question i mean
pretty much everything that i did so far
in honor guard is like
kind of like a highlight for me because
it’s like you know like the learning
experience that i have and just like
like using what i practice to like you
know performing these ceremonies
right you know so it’s like pretty much
everything honestly in my opinion
okay i actually like it a lot and what
are you gonna do tomorrow
we actually are going to present the
um i really want to let my sergeant tell
you more about that because i just
i just know for a fact that we’re
presenting the cover you can follow all
the drinks yeah yeah so
all right so tomorrow um
we’ll be presenting the colors for a
wreath-laying ceremony
performed by the 101st airborne division
at the 101st airborne division monument
right outside the gates of arlington
national cemetery
uh so we’ll be standing there with um
so our team that we assembled for this
trip is
the national colors the army colors and
the division colors
two riflemen five-man color guard we’ll
be standing there
standing tall while uh the association
lays the wreath at the monument there
where’s the other two guys well
he’s the two riflemen are right here
five and two
no we got three three flags two rifles
oh yeah okay
three flags two so me my uh my
sergeant and uh booker here uh hold the
flags and then
gray and shane here hold the rifles
they’re the rifleman
yep well i’ll tell you what anything
else we need to know matt
oh it’s up to you how about memorial day
oh yeah
so what does the memorial day mean to
you guys here we go let’s go around the
horn oh
there we go all right cool yeah
me honestly for me it’s just like you
know remember the fallen soldiers
were the fallen soldiers that you know
like served army before me you know like
not only just like doing it for my
family like just doing it for us because
like you know saying we came in as a
so you know i’m just finishing what they
you know what they started you know
continue we’re continuing with this
started you know and it’s just you know
i’m saying like
hopefully keep it in the family you know
generation generation so
amen to that then uh
for me it’s definitely about honoring
uh the vets for sure but it’s also
more so about me being of
a first generation of being in the army
it’s not i have siblings and cousins and
none of them decided to actually
cross the line and join so i was really
the first to
kind of make a stepping stone for my
family to try and
do that so it’s i’m just trying to show
a different route you know but
much respect to that that’s great thank
you i think it’s about
honoring vets uh prisoners of war
missing in action all that and
uh it’s like active duty too i mean
not as much as veterans but uh mainly
those who’ve
died and all that so
yeah oh here we go well
memorial day all right well under two
okay memorial day at least it means a
lot to me of course
uh it’s a time to remember the ones who
didn’t make it back home
as well as uh you know all the guys who
served honorably for you know however
many years and got out and then
died of old age i have a
lot of members of my family who you know
um had a great uncle who was a retired
and he just passed away of old age in
2009 and he was buried in
in arlington right over there and uh so
it’s a time to remember him and and the
guys who who
who died in all the various campaigns
time and uh uh the three guys who uh
from my battalion who who died in
afghanistan who didn’t who didn’t make
it back home when i
when i got off the plane there in uh at
fort campbell
and uh so it’s a good time to uh think
about those guys and
honor their legacy and try to live up to
their to you know
to their legacy so yeah are there any of
you guys in the same unit
oh no we’re actually
so so how the division honor guard works
they have certain slots for different
units across the entire division they
try to have
one soldier from each brigade at least
one from each brigade so we’re actually
all from different units i came from
third brigade
1187 infantry what unit did you come
uh we’re both from second brigade uh i’m
from one 320.
yeah i’m from 175 calf
that’s right and i’m from 372nd rctc
and nobody knows oh uh
well honestly it’s a pretty much
applause you need reinforcements more
you need letters from home you need hot
chow once in a while
you need medevacs you need everything
you need it takes you know what’s
between five and ten
people and to serve one guy in the field
you know that right yeah so that’s a big
uh that’s what at least
when i was in the war so uh interesting
so what do you think matt yeah
yeah just give us what you mean speak
yeah there you go i mean honestly for me
it’s just like you know the
representative you know fallen soldiers
you know
soldiers that was like missing an action
killed it actually you know and just
like also like
with my family you know like both sides
of my family like
in the military like from air force navy
marines arm you know
so it’s just like seeing them do that
inspired me to join
and just like keep the legacy going and
oh yeah and just you know saying shout
out to my dad you know my mom my
granddad who passed away you know i’m
saying like i looked at him a lot so
there you go i appreciate him yeah
remember everybody send their little
shout out at the end right
um which memorial day mean to you like i
said before
uh just honoring those who served before
and who paved the way before me to
even have us where we are today because
back then the army was definitely
different from what it is now
so with you you veterans paving the way
it was
it’s we have to pay our respect it’s
only right that we do gotcha thank you
uh just remember those who served it’s
an important weekend
uh honor them uh i have a
grandpa in national guard he used to
serve i had
two twin brothers that served national
so yeah okay
this is the man of few words right here
yeah uh no it’s cool though it’s cool
oh yeah no it’s safe yeah
right right yeah um yeah memorial day uh
i feel like the average civilian doesn’t
really understand what memorial day is
all about and uh
so maybe we can you know use this
opportunity to educate them it’s not
it’s not about days off of work and it’s
not about barbecuing with your buddies
it’s really about yeah everybody’s like
oh happy memorial day now i think it’s
really not a happy time for the people
you know the people who are actually
affected by these these military deaths
anyway uh we’ll end on a happy note yeah
uh so
here we are 101st division honor guard
live from dc
uh laying the wreath at the 101st
memorial tomorrow
um and yeah thanks for having us on
it was a pleasure to meet you and y’all
wouldn’t believe how old this dude is
go ahead sir thank you very much okay uh
one other thing before i go i just want
to uh
say that 101st 101st airborne division
from the the inception in uh 1942
at thought it was for some fort there in
tuscaloosa down in georgia
uh i’ll think about it by time i finish
and uh to today
i have orders uh orders for me to travel
in vietnam that says at the heading
101st airborne division air mobile air
so regardless of what it was airborne
ass air assault air
mobile air calvary best unit in the damn
world that’s
it man thank you very much for serving
and uh
thank you very much for watching and
listening and i want to
welcome everybody home god bless you
and air assault