It’s good to be a Nats fan this October!
Having swept the St. Louis Cardinals to earn a spot in the World Series, the Nationals have brought new life to area sports fandom. And if you’ve been following the Nats you may have spotted some familiar faces in the crowd, as the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presented the colors — displaying and escorting the national flag — at several Nationals games this season.
The Honor Guard is among the many traditions at a professional baseball game, along with the national anthem, the ceremonial first pitch and the seventh inning stretch. The Washington Nationals and the Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard relationship spans from the days when the Nationals used to play at RFK Stadium. Sgt. Chris Loftis, a public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office and a supervisor on the Honor Guard Team, credits the longstanding relationship to the Honor Guard’s responsiveness, professionalism and reliability.
“We planned for the worst-case scenario of traffic and rehearsal time,” explains Loftis. “During the rehearsal for the pregame ceremony, the director of entertainment said, ‘No pressure,’ but also let us know that the timing of a 113th Wing flyover from Joint Base Andrews was dependent on us executing our movements in time.”
F16s were syncing up with the presentation of colors and completion of the national anthem performed by the U.S. Air Force Band Singing Sergeants, all broadcast live on TBS.
“We practiced our movements until we were able to repeat them under a set time limit on the field during batting practice. After practicing on the field, we continued to practice in the hallway under the stadium just outside of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ locker room,” notes Loftis.
At showtime, the team executed its movements and presented the colors and the F16s flew over as soon as the Singing Sergeants hit the last note. “The pregame ceremony was a powerful moment” remembers Loftis. “The Washington Nationals trusted us to perform on a national stage.”
It all comes down to discipline he points out: “We have trained for years, and learned to trust each other, paying attention to small details using precise military bearing. If it looks easy, it’s because we train for the big moments. We step up on the biggest stage making sure that our brain and body act like they have every other day. We don’t get lost in the moment—we execute the mission.”
Established in 1982, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Honor Guard is the guardian of the colors on ceremonial occasions at official functions, which include graduations, parades, judge investitures, funerals and other special activities. “Our most revered duty is to render honor and respect to fallen officers and each member understands the significance of their role in paying tribute,” says Loftis, who’s been a member since 2007. “Professionalism, discipline, precision and empathy are without compromise at memorial services, which often provide a lasting memory for the loved ones left behind.”
The team participates in competitions sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). In 2015, the Honor Guard showcased its “silent drill team” and won four gold medals at the World Police and Fire Games. In 2019 and 2018, it participated in the COG Honor Guard competition, winning best dressed each year. “You feel it in your veins. The pulse of competition, the desire for glory, the craving to be the best, the need to push your limits,” says Loftis about the competitions. “And, I’ve experienced the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.”
More information about the Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.