NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - A Marine from Pasco County is part of the elite group given the honor of being part of President George H.W. Bush’s funeral services in Washington, D.C.
Cpl. Kevin Harris says the weight of the assignment didn't fully sink in until the hearse pulled up Monday.
"I'm standing there holding him while the band was playing and I realized, 'Wow, I’m holding the 41st president of the United States right now,'" said Harris.
Completely in sync and flawless, Harris was one of eight service members whose duty was to carry President Bush's flag-draped casket into the U.S. Capitol rotunda Monday night and back out Wednesday morning.
"Being part of such a historic moment for such an incredible person, it was amazing," Harris said.
The 24-year-old New Port Richey native is part of the Marine Corps Body Bearers, an elite section stationed in Washington, D.C. tasked with carrying the caskets of fallen Marines and their family members, as well as heads of state and former presidents.
"You can't breathe out of your mouth, you can't make any facial expressions, you can't let the family members see that you're under strain or anything because you have to be perfect for them," explained Harris.
The section needs to be physically and mentally strong.
Each member goes through months of intense daily training, building body strength and learning the precise details of the ceremony.
They need to be ready to bear caskets weighing 400 to 800 pounds, with perfect execution.
Since becoming a Body Bearer, Harris has laid to rest nearly 250 people.
He says while there was pressure carrying a presidential casket, being at funerals is his job so he did his best, and it was an honor.
"It's the biggest thing I’ve done in my life, for sure,” Harris added. “And it's something I’ll look back on for the rest of my life, and I’ll be able to show my kids and grandkids."