HINCKLEY TWP. –– Standing at the side of history.
That is where 22-year-old Kurt Tolley, a Hinckley resident, found himself last week as one 10 men selected to be a point man who guarded the casket of former President George H.W. Bush during his state funeral.
“It was a great honor,” Tolley said Thursday.
While Tolley’s mother, Alyce Tolley, and friends watched the funeral on television from their homes and knew Tolley was there in an official capacity, paying respect to the former commander in chief, Tolley could not speak about the experience until he received permission from the military. That approval came recently and this is what he had to say about the man who served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993:
“I got to stand guard for 40 to 48 hours on a rotation for one of our nation’s presidents, so it was definitely one of the best experiences that I have had in the Army,” Tolley said.
Tolley serves in the U.S. Army Honor Guard in Virginia and he works at Arlington National Cemetery.
He and the other men have been trained to work at state funerals for government officials like Bush, preparation that takes place every six months until they are needed.
The funeral of a former president is the biggest honor of all. This was an opportunity to represent the Army to government officials, the Bush family and the nation.
“Well, you have to make sure you’re meticulous out there and paying attention at all times,” he said. “Making sure you don’t move or mess up the sequence. Other than that it was almost unreal that I was actually out there guarding the remains of a former president.”
Still, Alyce Tolley said her son was casual when he let her know about his place in history.
“He said it really nonchalantly,” Alyce Tolley said. “He said, ‘Oh by the way, I got selected to be a point man at President Bush’s funeral.’ I was overwhelmingly proud and amazed that he got selected. He’s a good young man. I’m just very proud of him.”
When Tolley is not attending state funerals for prominent officials, he is on rotation at the national cemetery helping to lay fallen soldiers to rest.
“I take the remains of fallen soldiers into Arlington Cemetery and I fold the flag and just pass the flag on so it can be passed on to the family,” he said.
Tolley said that the Army has been a great experience for him as a young a man and his service with the Honor Guard allows him to represent the Army to the families of fallen soldiers for the last time.
“I think it’s amazing, just being in the military in general,” he said. “I think all young people, men and women, should definitely take the experience in the military. It gives you a lot of discipline and builds you as a person. Even at such a young age, being able to be a part of so many great people and their funerals and their last moments here, it’s just a great experience.”
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