By Alvin Plexico, Navy Office of Community Outreach
As the nation paused this Memorial Day to remember fallen service members, a native of Valrico had special responsibilities honoring fallen comrades in the nation’s capital with the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard.
“I am qualified as both a casket-bearer and firing team member,” said Petty Officer Third Class Jose Figueroa Berrios, who joined the Navy a year and a half ago.
Established in 1931, the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard is the official Ceremonial Unit of the U.S. Navy and is based at Naval District Washington Anacostia Annex in Washington D.C.
According to Navy officials, the Ceremonial Guard’s primary mission is to represent the Navy in presidential, Joint Armed Forces, Navy and public ceremonies under the scrutiny of the highest-ranking officials of the United States and foreign nations, including royalty.
Sailors of the Ceremonial Guard are hand-selected while they are attending boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Strict military order and discipline, combined with teamwork, allow the Ceremonial Guard to fulfill their responsibilities with pride and determination. They are experts in the art of close-order drill, coordination and timing.
Growing up in Valrico, Figueroa Berrios attended Tampa Bay Technical High School and graduated in 2020. Today, Figueroa Berrios uses skills and values similar to those learned in Valrico.
“The biggest lesson I learned growing up was to be patient,” said Figueroa Berrios. “With a little bit of perseverance and patience, you can go a long way.”
These lessons continue to help Figueroa Berrios while serving in the military.
Serving in the Navy means Figueroa Berrios is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“When the world goes to sleep, the Navy is still working to defend our way of life,” said Figueroa Berrios.
With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.
Figueroa Berrios and the sailors they serve with have many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during their military service.
“So far, my greatest accomplishment is qualifying for both of my positions. Most here only do one,” said Figueroa Berrios. “I didn’t let anything distract me or get in my way.”
As Figueroa Berrios and other sailors continue to train and perform the missions they are tasked with, they take pride in serving.