Honor Guard follows Tradition in 

Paying its Final Respects

5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) 

The military honor guard fires 21-gun salute during the graveside service at Happy Valley Memorial Park on Tuesday (Staff Photo by Tony Duncan)

By John Thompson
Reprint: Elizabethton Bureau of  The Johnson City Press (Tennessee)

ELIZABETHTON — The 5th Special Forces Group paid its final respects to Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis on Tuesday. All 21 members of the honor guard were from 5th Group, where Davis had served.

It was their second ceremony in a week. They had just performed the same honors in Massachusetts, where they had buried another Green Beret soldier who died with Davis in Afghanistan.

The special honor guard was just another way the Green Berets do things a bit differently from the rest of the military. In most active-duty Army funerals, an honor guard is detailed to do all funerals in a region, regardless of unit.

“It is a 5th Group tradition, we are all volunteers for this,” said one of the honor guard members. The men wore their “Class A” green uniforms with the famous beret. As is true of all airborne units, they wore their pants tucked inside their highly polished jump boots.

The highest ranking Green Beret in the Army, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey C. Lambert, commander of the Army Special Forces Command, also attended the funeral.

“He had one life and he gave it in the service of his country,” Lambert told the Davis family. He said Davis left a legacy of service to his children, to the men he led and to the oppressed people of Afghanistan.

Lambert presented a posthumous Silver Star to Davis’ widow. The Silver Star is the Army’s third-highest award for combat. Davis was cited for exceptional gallantry in action against enemy forces in Afghanistan.

The family was also presented with posthumous awards of the Purple Heart, given for wounds received during combat, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

Following the presentation of awards, the eight men who served as pallbearers lifted the American flags that had covered the casket. They carefully and precisely folded the flags into the familiar triangle. The flags were then presented to the family, along with wooden display cases.

State Sen Dewey “Rusty” Crowe, R-Johnson City, and state Rep. Ralph Cole, R-Elizabethton, then presented the family with flags that had flown over the state Capitol.

Following the presentation of awards, a 21-gun salute was fired by seven Green Beret sergeants.

Following the shots, a bugler played “Taps” as the military members rendered a salute.

As the last note of “Taps” sounded, Master Sgt. Merritt H. Powell stepped forward, equipped with a set of bagpipes.

Powell, a retired Green Beret soldier, now serves as the national adjutant of the Scottish-American Military Society. He came at his own expense from Daytona Beach, Fla., to pipe for Davis and his family.

He told the family a Celtic legend that had been told to him by one of the pipers who led British soldiers in attacks across “no man’s land” in Flanders in World War I.

“The legend is that bagpipes have a way of reaching the other world and letting the departed know that they are being lamented,” Powell told the family.

He then piped “The Ballad of the Green Berets” followed by “Amazing Grace.”

As he finished, a group of Green Beret soldiers, led by Lambert, lined up to say a few words to the Davis family.

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