An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | April 19, 2022

Fort Sam Houston Memorial Services Detachment members receive Air Force Commander’s Public Service Award

By Olivia Mendoza Sencalar 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Fifty members of the Fort Sam Houston Memorial Services Detachment were awarded the Department of Air Force Commander’s Public Service Award April 18.

The detachment is an all-volunteer group of more than 100 U.S. military veterans who provide military honors to eligible veterans and service retirees at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

“These awards really show appreciation for our volunteers,” said Manny Mendoza, Fort Sam Houston Memorial Services Detachment commander.

The recognition for the MSD members was based on their eligibility of five years of volunteer service as funeral honor guards, with two consecutive years of good standing with 200 hours or more of volunteer service and a recommendation from the MSD commander.

The MSD Honor Guard is composed of retired and former military service members who ensure that all veterans interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery receive proper burial honors, complete with military honor guard, rifle volleys and the playing of “Taps.” The group performs Monday through Friday, and occasionally on Saturday for weekday holidays, rain or shine.

“This award recognizes those who have performed an exceptionally significant service for the men and women of our military," said Brig. Gen. Caroline Miller, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander. "Their service, rendered through considerable personal sacrifice, is a great example of patriotism."

The MSD has participated in the funeral services for more than 40,000 veterans at no expense to their families.

“I feel truly honored having served 24 years of service active duty and I know what it takes to give to our country," said retired Senior Master Sgt. John D. Francis, who has been an MSD volunteer since July 2019. He wanted to give back and honor veterans and the detachment gave him an opportunity to be a part of something greater than himself.

"I’m extremely proud, along with our other members, to help support and honor our veterans,” Francis said. “It never gets old. There is a sense of exhilaration and pride in honoring our fallen veterans. It gives us great joy to see the appreciation that the family members receive when we perform the honors for them.”

For several years, the MSD has also provided military burial honors for veterans who have donated their bodies to the University of Texas Health Science Center Body Donation Program. Their honors are conducted at a private cemetery on the UT Health Science Center Campus grounds.

“We also provide the traditional three volleys of rifle fire and the sound of ‘Taps’ for the unaccompanied and homeless veterans as a final salute to those who have served our nation,” Mendoza said. “Local veterans' organizations like the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters, city officials, military leaders and the Cole High School Junior ROTC also participate in the unaccompanied and homeless honors.”

The detachment has also performed military honors for veterans identified in the Missing in America Project. The project’s purpose is to locate, identify and inter, unclaimed remains of American veterans.

“It is truly comforting to know the MSD members share the same respect for all our veterans with the same honors,” Miller said. “This just shows how much our military service members take pride in continuing to provide care for one another.”

As of Dec. 31, 2021, the MSD has rendered honors at 41,523 funerals and more than 1,900 veteran funerals at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

“Our MSD members are filled with gratitude, closeness and brotherhood each and every day they are on duty. We treat each burial service with the dignity and highest respect it deserves,” Mendoza said. “We have laid to rest our beloved members of the ‘Greatest Generation’ and continue now into the newer generations with the same respect and admiration.”