Among the many activities undertaken by our members, one of the most highly visible is the Local 627 Honor Guard. The Honor Guard is composed of members from throughout the four platoons of the York City Fire Department, as well as the occasional retired member. Currently under the command of Assistant Chief Richard Saylor, the Guard constantly strives to create a positive public image for both the Local and the York City Fire Department.
Local 627 has been a major sponsor of York's largest civic parade, the annual Halloween parade held every October. As such, a large contingent of the Honor Guard has led the parade each of the last several years. The Guard also appears annually in York City's two other parades; the Saint Patrick's Day parade each March, and the Labor Day parade in September, and has appeared in York County's large parade to commemorate it's 250th anniversary. Additionally, elements of the Guard have traveled to participate in several major celebratory parades. They have braved arctic temperatures and bitter winds to march in the Inauguration Day Parade of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell in Harrisburg. They were invited to Chocolatetown, USA to lead a segment of the Centennial Parade commemorating the 100th birthday of Hershey, Pennsylvania. And they have traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to participate in that City's parade marking the 100th anniversary of Baltimore's conflagration of 1904.
However, marching in parades is only a small portion of the Honor Guard's activities. They often receive requests to present the colors at various civic and even private events. An Honor Guard unit was on hand to present the colors at the dedications to both the Fire Museum of York County and the York County Fire School. They are regular participants as Flag Bearers for the Flag Day ceremony held each year by the local chapter of the Elks Lodge. They have escorted the guest of honor, a longtime Fire Department member, into his 100th birthday celebration. And recently, an Honor Guard unit provided the backdrop for the Inauguration of York City Mayor John Brenner.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Honor Guard's activities increased greatly. In 2002, an element traveled to Colorado Springs to participate in the International Association of Fire Fighters Fallen Firefighters Memorial service honoring all professional firefighters nationally who died in the line of duty. They also traveled to the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland to attend the Fallen Firefighters Memorial there. Several members went to New York City to participate in a parade and service honoring the Firefighters who fell during the September 11 tragedy. And on the first anniversary of 9-11, the Honor Guard was called on to present the colors at the groundbreaking ceremony for the "Freedom Garden" in York City's Farquhar Park. The Garden is a monument honoring all those who died in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in rural Pennsylvania. In the spirit of camaraderie, members of the Local 627 Guard combined with members of the York City F.O.P. Lodge to present the colors at the Lodge's Installation of Officers banquet, and at the York Expo Center preceding a visit and speech by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In 2002, a contingent of the Honor Guard responded to a call from the producers of the John Travolta movie, "Ladder 49." Fire Department Honor Guards from throughout the area were needed as extras for the movies funeral scene to be shot in a park in Baltimore. The excursion was an all-day affair, and the chance to experience something new, as well as enjoy the company of a wide variety of fellow firefighters.
One of the most respected tasks of the Honor Guard continues to be its presence at the funerals of retired members. When requested by the families, the Honor Guard strives to demonstrate the show of great respect warranted by members of Local 627, whether at viewings, church services or cemeteries. In 2002, in order to enhance their abilities, several members of the Guard traveled to Fort Myer, Virginia, just outside Washington D. C. Here they trained with the Honor Guard of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, "The Old Guard," who provides the ceremonial Honor Guards for the funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And recently, the Local acquired a large parade flag for use at services in the cemetery, as well as other special events.
Events attended by the Honor Guard continue to garner many positive comments and letters of appreciation from public officials and citizens alike. The I.A.F.F. Local 627 Honor Guard continues to exemplify the tradition of excellence set forth by Local 627 and the York City Fire Department.