Honor Guard Mission
“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”
The Ventura County Fire Department Honor Guard is dedicated to honoring fallen firefighters, their families, and VCFD members—past and present. The mission of the Honor Guard is to represent the department as a highly disciplined team serving with honor at ceremonial functions.
The Honor Guard functions with respect and dignity at funeral services for active and retired VCFD personnel—and provides comfort and compassion for the survivors. The Guard projects a positive image of the Department and its members by performing as a well-trained professional team at local, state, and national events.
The Ventura County Fire Department Honor Guard participates in several types of events. Upon request, the team performs colors details at civic occasions such as public parades and special community events. They also perform colors details at VCFD events such as dedications, graduations, promotional ceremonies, and awards ceremonies. The Honor Guard plans, organizes, and performs at funeral and memorial services for department members. The Guard also assists other agencies with funeral and memorial services when requested. Members of the Honor Guard have participated in state and national events such as the California Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Sacramento and the International Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs.
The Honor Guard uses various types of equipment in the performance of its duties. Chromed axes and pike poles are used as ceremonial guard weapons. The Guard also cares for and utilizes the flags of our country, state, department, and IAFF Local during various events.
Bagpipers within the Honor Guard pay tribute to our fallen as they should be respected—just as they were 800 years ago. The history of bagpipers in the fire service is related to their integral role during wars fought in what is now known as the United Kingdom. Descending directly from Scottish regiments in England’s military, bagpipes emit a penetrating, unique sound that can be heard for miles. Those who know little or nothing about the instrument’s history are nevertheless stirred and overwhelmed by its sound. The men who played the pipes began to migrate to America and took jobs as firefighters—as nobody else was willing to accept such a dangerous role. When a firefighter died, it was viewed as similar to the death of a warrior in battle. Today, the bagpipes are played at funerals of fallen firefighters—sometimes accompanied by a core of drummers.
Bell Ceremony: Fallen Firefighters’ Final Farewell
The men and women of today’s fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work environment than ever before. We are forced to continually change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our tasks. Our methods change over the years, but our goals remain the same as they have always been—to save lives and to protect property, sometimes at a deep and devastating cost. This is what we do. This is our chosen profession. This is the tradition of the firefighter—steeped in more than 200 years of courageous and selfless service.
One such tradition is the sound of the bell. In the days of old, as fire fighters began their daily duties, it was the bell that signaled the beginning of that day’s shift.
Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizen. And when the fire was out and the alarm had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled the completion of that call.
When a firefighter paid the supreme sacrifice by dying in the line of duty, it was the mournful toll of the bell that solemnly announced a comrade’s passing.
Today, we utilize these traditions as symbols that reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much and served so well. To symbolize the devotion these brave souls had to their solemn duty, a special signal of three rings–three times each–represents the end of our comrades’ duties and their return to their quarters.
And so, to those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow men, their tasks completed, their duties well done, to our comrades, their last alarm, they are going home.
When I am called to duty, God
Wherever flames may rage
Give me strength to save a life
Whatever be its age.
Let me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently
To put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling
To give the best in me,
To guard my friend and neighbor
And protect their property.
And, if, according to your will,
While on duty I must answer death’s call;
Bless with your protecting hand
My family, one and all.