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A SOMBER DUTY FOR 2 COMRADES

The Tampa Police Honor Guard wants perfection for today's double funeral.

It's easier to focus on left, right, left, right, turn and salute than the man missing from their ranks.

Cpl. Mike Stout pauses when asked how many serve in the Tampa Police Honor Guard.

"Nineteen."

Last week, there were 20.

Officer David Curtis, a member of the honor guard, and Officer Jeffrey Kocab were shot to death early Tuesday.

The honor guard will preside at their funeral today. It rehearsed five hours on Thursday, then four more on Friday.

Its members will wear crisp dress uniforms and bright white gloves. They'll carry in the flag-draped caskets and stand by them throughout the funeral.

Curtis joined the honor guard shortly after arriving at the Tampa Police Department. Stout, a member of the guard, helped recruit him. Curtis had the right demeanor: strong, easy-going, dependable.

"I knew he'd be perfect," Stout said.

It's the first time the Tampa honor guard has lost an active member.

Still, after aiding in dozens of funerals nationwide, including that of Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts, who was shot in the line of duty last August, the idea of death is often present.

They've all had the what-if-it-were-me conversations, said honor guard leader Sgt. Robert Alsip. "But we'd dismiss it right away," he said.

On Friday, they couldn't dismiss the fact that two of their own were gone. Most of them have spent hours trying to track down the suspected shooter.

"It's a nightmare," Stout said, as his eyes welled with tears.

But the time for grieving will come later, Stout said. For now, he wants to focus on making every step, every movement at Saturday's funeral flawless.

"It's nothing I ever expected I'd ever have to do," he said. "But we'll do it for Dave. We'll make it perfect. And we'll do it for Jeff. We'll make it perfect."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

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