Auxiliary Honor Guards and Color Guards: What They Do

Posted On: Wednesday, 25 May 2022

The sounds of synchronized steps, a bugler playing Taps — in sorrow, and in celebration, presentations from honor guards and color guards stir up deep emotions. Both symbolize our freedoms and the sacrifices from the men and women who defend our country. Though similar, there are slight differences between an honor guard and a color guard. 
The main purpose of an honor guard is to present honors at military funerals. Included in their duties: removing the flag from the casket and folding it 13 times into a crisp triangle for loved ones to cherish in remembrance. Honor guards may also present the colors (flags) at ceremonial occasions. Color guards are often seen at the beginning of sporting events, carrying the colors to represent the service of our Armed Forces. While these are both often conducted by veterans, some American Legion Auxiliary and other American Legion Family members proudly answer the call of duty.
California ALA color guard honored to present in local and national events
In 1985, Legionnaire John Coleman established the Jackie Robinson Unit 252 Color Guard in Los Angeles. The all-Auxiliary unit started by participating in parades. Now, they present the colors often for a variety of events, including competitions, national American Legion Family events, and for the pre-game ceremonies at professional sporting events. The unit has received several awards, including The American Legion Color Guard Competition, California 2019 State Champion for Color Guard, multiple first-place awards from the Los Angeles Martin Luther King Jr. Parade since 1985, and the AFRAM GLOBAL community service award.
One of the most high-profile honors the guard has received was presenting colors during pregame ceremonies for 2022 Super Bowl Champions Los Angeles Rams. They presented twice during the 2021-2022 season in SOFI stadium, and had previously presented in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
“It was amazing to present colors at the Rams game. We were treated as VIPs,” said Anita Biggs, captain of the Jackie Robinson Unit 252 Color Guard. “What almost brought us to tears was when we walked back to the green room after presenting, and many of the fans stopped, applauded, and said, ‘Great job’. It was so heartwarming.”
In addition to Rams games, the unit has presented colors at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson Day, Los Angeles Clippers, and at an MMA event. The unit presents colors 10 to 12 times a year. On Veterans Day, they usually juggle at least four events. The group has set a major goal for themselves — they want to march in the U.S. President’s Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. 
The color guard consists of 10 members, eight of which are in active rotation. Two of the members — Bertha Edmondson and Donna Grayson — have been involved since the unit’s inception in 1985. Currently they have one active-duty Army captain in their color guard. Biggs said they are always recruiting.  
Biggs has participated for more than 20 years. She joined because of her dad, and now he helps with the color guard.
“My father was an award-winning company commander in the U.S. Navy. He loved The American Legion and was a past commander of Jackie Robinson Post 252. Although I admired the unit color guard, I did not have any desire to join until my father talked me into it,” Biggs said. “When I attained the position of captain, I enlisted my father to serve as our drill instructor. We learned many new maneuvers under his leadership and began to win more awards and were noticed more often.”
Kids can take part in color guards too
A unit in Illinois is teaching future generations how to represent the colors and appreciate and understand the sacrifices and freedoms they represent. 
The Shooting Stars Drill Team from Unit 14 in Flora is for kids in elementary through high school. Ruthie McGilvry Welty started the team in 2011 to teach children how to post and respect the flag and honor veterans. The kids also participate in the POW/MIA ceremony and can fold the flag and recite the meaning of the 13 folds. Welty teaches the kids how to post and retrieve the flag, along with flag etiquette and meanings.
Welty said the team has events throughout the year, and they get many requests for Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
“We’re very busy. I have to turn down some people because we’re usually busy for four days a week around those holidays,” Welty said. “Kids love marching in the Veterans Day and Memorial Day parades.”
The Shooting Stars have also performed at The American Legion National Color Guard contest. The team won first place in the open class division in 2016, 2018, and 2019.
With boys allowed on the drill team, a second-grade boy joined.
“He’s so proud of himself when he posts the flag, and he does a perfect job,” Welty said. She doesn’t want to turn anyone away because she knows the benefits for kids. Not only do they learn patriotism and respect, but it gives them confidence.
ALA members and military funerals
ALA members from Unit 253 in Festus, Mo., answered the call of duty to assist their Legion post to provide funeral honors at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis in 2017. The ALA members were part of the shooting team.
“Uniforms were made ready, feelings were running high, and we felt the need to contribute and that was the best decision,” said Diane McCart, honor guard member. “The ALA members have participated in 573 funerals.”
Unfortunately, the ALA members are no longer participating in funerals at the national cemetery. “In September 2021, the Missouri National Guard Funeral Honors Program instituted stricter guidelines, limiting the participation of the funeral honors shooting team to veterans only,” McCart said. “This action came as a shock to us all and affected every organization that participated in the program.” The unit continues to participate in various patriotic events at local schools and in their community.
Color guards and The American Legion Family
The American Legion Post 230 Color Guard in Stockton, Mo., includes both Legionnaires and Auxiliary members. ALA members joined the guard in 2017 because extra people were needed at the time but decided to continue as part of the team. In 2018, the guard — including the Auxiliary members — participated in and won the National Color Guard Competition at the National Convention in Minneapolis.
“It involved a lot of practice but was a very wonderful experience,” said Carole Maugh, ALA Unit 230 member. “This has been a fun part of our Auxiliary activities.”  
Currently, five Auxiliary members participate — two on a regular basis, two as fill-ins, and a college student who participates when she is home from school.
“We all participated on drill teams in our younger years. Our college student Elizabeth Christie was a member of the Stockton JROTC color guard before she left for college,” said Maugh. “Our ages range from 21 to 74.” Each member has a personal connection to the color guard. Christie is connected through her grandfather. The other members all have husbands who participate. 
The post also has an honor guard, but the Auxiliary members participate only during color guard events and carry the service flags.
More color and honor guards are needed
Color guard and honor guards are needed across the country to keep the tradition going strong into the future. For units wanting to start a color/honor guard, Biggs recommends asking someone with a military background to help organize drills, maneuvers, march, posting, and presenting colors. Unit 252 orders uniforms and equipment from American Legion Flag & Emblem Sales, as well as a parade accessory supplier. 
By Jennifer Donovan, Staff Writer

American Legion color guard contests
The American Legion hosts a color guard competition at the beginning of every National Convention. 
The next contest will be held Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, during the 103rd American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee. 
There are four classes of competition: 

  • Advancing/Retiring Colors
  • Military
  • Military-Open 
  • Open
Applications are available at and are due July 22.

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.