Group travels state, country to support families, law enforcement agencies
By Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
A select few in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation don a Class A uniform, travel miles across the open road and perform a solemn task – showing respect to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The members of the Transportation Unit Honor Guard are all volunteers.
“We want to give back to the families of those who gave their lives for the profession we all do,” said Officer Ercell Sellers, who leads the Honor Guard.
The group logs many miles throughout the year. They recently participated in the California Peace Officers Memorial in Sacramento, attended a ceremony to honor two officers from the Texas Department of Corrections who were killed in the line of duty and traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in National Police Week.
“We are going to the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation Project 2000 in Tampa, Florida,” he said. “We are also going to Reno, Nev., to attend the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Convention and to Las Vegas for the Corrections USA convention. We have also done several local and statewide memorial services for fallen officers in our area and throughout California this year.”
Capt. John Herrera, with the Transportation Unit, supports the Honor Guard’s efforts.
“While CDCR is fortunate to have not lost a peace officer in the line of duty this past year, I feel it’s important for our statewide Transportation Unit Honor Guard to show support for agencies that have lost peace officers,” he said.
Officer Raymundo Galo said the distance between events isn’t a problem for the Honor Guard.
“As a Transportation team, (travel) is what we do on a daily basis,” he said.
Officer Sellers said there are requirements to becoming a member of the Transportation Unit Honor Guard.
“You have to be in good standing with the Department, show pride in your uniform and grooming standards, show interest in helping others in times of need,” Officer Sellers said. “Then you must put in a written request to be interviewed. Then you are chosen by the Honor Guard commanders and team members.”
He said there is support from CDCR.
“The Department has recently given us 16 hours a year to use for training and rehearsal time,” he said.
Still, to be the best, they use their own personal time to rehearse.
“We want to be the best and perfect when we go to these events,” he said. “Most of the time we get together before the events and practice on our own time. We also use our own time 90 percent of the time when we volunteer to go to these ceremonies, funerals and memorial services.”
Officer Sellers said they take part in other community activities if asked and if time allows.
“We have not been involved in a lot of that lately because we’re so busy doing all the things that we’re doing now and we have to use our own time and money to do these things,” he explained.
Some of the regular members of the Transportation Unit Honor Guard are Officer Galo, Officer Erick Gomez, Sgt. Melana Paris and Officer Henry Montoya.
Officer Sellers said it’s an honor to be a part of such a special group.
“I would have to say my best memories from the Honor Guard are going to be The National Peace Officer Memorial Services in Washington, D.C., and being among the tens of thousands of officers and families and loved ones who came to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said. “The camaraderie, love and respect we are given is breathtaking.”
There are also emotional times for the members.
“The hardest moments for me are when the little kids come up to you and thank you for being there for their loved one who was lost,” he said.