They are the men and women who stand stoically by during the darkest times of our first responders – Members of Washington's honor guards provide dignity and support for fallen firefighters, police and the rest of law enforcement. They call it a "sacred duty," and they hope they never have to perform it.
About 150 first responders from across the Northwest are in Lynnwood this week to learn what it takes to be part of the privileged few who make up the honor guard.
Their job is to commemorate those killed in the line of duty and comfort those left behind.
Everett Police officer Meg DiBucci is among those doing some of the teaching.
"I just had a calling, a passion to be part of something like this," she said.
From the bell salute to the ceremonial folding of the American flag, honor guard volunteers are taught the techniques and traditions that have preceded them for generations.
"To be able to be there for someone is just deeply meaningful to me," Meg said.
It's so meaningful, because few at the three-day training know the other side of this experience better than Meg. Her finance was an Everett police officer too, and they were on the job together July 15, 1999.
"It started out like any other night," she said. "We came to work, gave a little kiss and went on our separate patrols."
Brian DiBucci was in pursuit of a suspect that night when he fell 100 feet off a trestle to his death.
"Telling the story doesn't get any easier," she said, fighting back tears. "I can still see my friend's face when he told me the news. All he could say was I'm sorry."
The honor guard gave Meg solace in her time of need.
"It made me feel safe," she said.
Meg legally took the last name of her fiancé to continue what she calls his "legacy of hope.” So when Meg tells a grieving widow she knows how it feels, she really does.
Even with high profile cop killings across the country, the number of honor guard members in Washington has been dropping. Some of that is due to a recent wave of retirements. Financial cutbacks are also responsible, especially for smaller departments that can't afford to allow an officer to be out of commission for an out of town funeral.
Regardless, Meg and her team remain committed to making sure the honor guard will be there for many years to come.
"We, as law enforcement, are there to surround the families and support them," she said. "We don't want to give that up. They need that."
A key supporter of the guard is the Behind the Badge Foundation. To find out more, visit behindthebadgefoundation.org.
Copyright 2016 KING