Winter 2019 McKendree Magazine

Serving with Honor

Chris Deaville ’17 stood watch at the Capitol Rotunda guarding the casket of former President George H.W. Bush for four-and-a-half hours overnight on Dec. 3 into Dec. 4. Chris is part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ceremonial Honor Guard, which serves the Military District of Washington, D.C.

“The process to join the honor guard is very prestigious,” said Chris. “Honor guard is in charge of funerals in Arlington National Cemetery, ceremonies for world leaders and dignitaries, jobs at the Pentagon and the White House, and big events such as the death of a president.”

Chris joined the Coast Guard in 2017 and was selected during boot camp to go through the 12-week honor guard training program. He is currently stationed in Alexandria, Va.

“I felt a sense of pride for guarding President Bush’s casket,” said Chris. “It makes you really love what you do. It was a very humbling experience.”

Presidential state funerals are steeped in tradition, dating back to the first one, held for William Henry Harrison in 1841 in the East Room at the White House. In December, George H.W. Bush’s flag-draped casket was set up for public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda for two days, on the same bier originally constructed for Abraham Lincoln. On the day of his funeral, the casket was moved to the Washington National Cathedral for a private ceremony. He was laid to rest the next day at his Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

Chris is not the first McKendree alumnus to participate in a presidential funeral. The Rev. James Connett ’42 oversaw the burial arrangements for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover, when he was the U.S. Army Post Chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery from 1961–1967. After President Kennedy was killed, James visited with the Kennedy family in the White House and prayed with President Lyndon Johnson at Kennedy’s gravesite following the funeral.