Alone among the Founders of the United States George Washington earned the title “Father of his Country” in recognition of his leadership in the cause of American independence. Appointed commander of the Continental Army in 1775, he molded a fighting force that won independence from Great Britain. In 1787 as President of the Constitutional Convention, he helped guide the deliberations to forma government that has lasted for more than 200 years. Two years later he was unanimously elected the first President of the United States. Washington defined the Presidency and helped develop the relationships among the three branches of government. He established precedents that successfully launched the new government on its course. Washington remained ever mindful of the ramifications of his decisions and actions, for he was a consummate statesman.
In 1783, Congress decreed that George Washington deserved a monument as grand as his quest for American democracy and freedom. This decision spurred architect Robert Mills to draw up plans for the Washington Monument, the highest all-masonry tower in the world. Unfortunately, progress wasn't swift: Bureaucratic hurdles and the Civil War impeded the structure's completion until 1855, long after the architect – and Washington – had died.
At 55 feet wide at the base and 555 feet tall, the white obelisk on the National Mall is made of 36,000 stones of marble from Maryland (the exterior) and granite from Maine (the interior) with a combined weight of 90,000 tons. One interesting feature is the interior iron stairway with 50 landings and 897 stone steps. These donated stones come from every state in the Union, as well as Native American nations and foreign countries.
With this monument the citizens of the United States show their enduring gratitude and respect.
The Lincoln Memorial is a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln and the nation he fought to preserve during the Civil War (1861 – 1865).
It was dedicated in 1922.
The Lincoln Memorial suits its surroundings so well that it seems to have always been there. The city's master designer, Pierre L'Enfant, could hardly have imagined a better architectural anchor to the west end of the Mall, the grassy area he visualized between the Capitol Building and the Potomac River.
Behind the memorial to the west lie Arlington National Cemetery and the stately Lee-Custis Mansion; to the east you see the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill. The massive sculpture of Lincoln faces east toward a long reflecting pool. The peaceful atmosphere belies the years of disagreement over what kind of monument to build and where.
On Memorial Day, May 30, 1922, the building was dedicated, 57 years after Lincoln died. About 50,000 people attended the ceremonies, including hundreds of Civil War veterans and Robert Todd Lincoln, the president's only surviving son. The main speakers were President Warren Harding, former President William Howard Taft, and Dr. Robert Moton, principal of the Tuskegee Institute, who delivered the keynote address.
New York architect Henry Bacon modelled the memorial in the style of a Greek temple. The classic design features 36 Doric columns outside, symbolizing the states in the Union at Lincoln's death. The building measures 204 feet long, 134 feet wide, and 99 feet tall, with 44-foot columns. It blends stone from various states: white Colorado marble for the exterior, Indiana limestone for the interior walls, pink Tennessee marble for the floor, and Alabama marble for the ceiling.
Daniel Chester French, the leading American sculptor of the day, created the famous statue of Lincoln, which dominates the interior. The memorial plans originally specified a 12-foot bronze statue, but it proved out of scale for the huge building. The finished statue is 19 feet tall, carved of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble. French later had special lighting installed to enhance the figure. Visitors sometimes ask if the hands have special significance (such as forming the letter “A” in sign language), but there is no indication French intended it.
Directly behind the Lincoln statue you can read the words of Royal Cortissoz carved into the wall: “IN THIS TEMPLE AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHIRNED FOREVER.”
The chamber north of the statue contains Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, topped by a mural by Jules Guerin called “Reunion”. Guerin also painted the “Emancipation” mural in the south chamber over the Gettysburg Address.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located 23 miles southwest of Rapid City, is the world's greatest mountain carving. These 60-foot high faces, 500 feet up, look out over a setting of pine, spruce, birch, and aspen in the clear western air. There are few people who are not subdued by the moments as they gaze upon the beauty of Mr. Rushmore. Just as the monument challenged its creator, so should its splendor challenge its viewer.
The four figures carved in stone on Mount Rushmore represent the first 150 year of American history. The birth of our nation was guided by the vision and courage of George Washington. Thomas Jefferson always had dreams of something bigger, first in the words of the Declaration of Independence and later in the expansion of our nation through the Louisiana Purchase. Preservation of the union was paramount to Abraham Lincoln but a nation where all men were free and equal was destined to be. At the turn of the Twentieth Century Theodore Roosevelt saw that in our nation was the possibility for greatness. Our nation was changing from a rural republic to a world power. The ideals of these presidents laid a foundation for our nation as solid as the rock from which their figures are carved.
The mountain itself was originally named after Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer investigating mining claims in the Black Hills in 1985. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began drilling into the 5,725 – foot mountain in 1927. Creation of the Shrine of Democracy took 14 years and cost a mere $1 million, though it's now deemed priceless.
The granite faces of four American presidents' are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall! President Calvin Coolidge believed Mount Rushmore was “decidedly American in its conception, magnitude and meaning. It is altogether worthy of our country.” Coolidge proclaimed at the dedication of the project in 1927.
The Avenue of Flags leads to the Grandview Terrace. The flags of the 56 states and territories (as some territories fly the US flag) fly below the memorial. Here, the avenue provides direct and easy access to the Grandview Terrace and Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking trail that offers spectacular views of the mountain sculpture.
World War I The Liberty Memorial
“In honor of those who served in the world war in defense of liberty and our country.” – inscription, on the Liberty Memorial tower in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
The quote above best depicts the reasons and emotions behind the raising of the Liberty Memorial Monument. World War I (1914 – 1918), which ended on the Western Front in Europe on November 11, 1918, had dramatically changed the world and deeply affected future generations.
After the guns were silenced and the huge celebrations had died down, concerned citizens in the United States reflected on the past War and on the losses sustained. What could be done to honor and remember, they wondered? Just two weeks after the Armistice, a meeting of Kansas Citizens brought forth the idea and need for the creation of a lasting monument to all men and women in the war and to those who died.
R>A. Long, founding president of the Liberty Memorial Association stated: “From its inception it was intended that this Memorial should represent on the part of all people, a living expression for all time, of the gratitude of a grateful people to those who offered and who gave their lives in defense of liberty and our country.”
A community-based fund-raising drive in 1919, led by this Association, raised over $2,500,000 in less than two weeks through public subscription in Kansas City and around the nation. This Staggering accomplishment reflected the passion of public opinion about the Great War, which so recently ended. Following the drive, the American Institute of Architects held a national architectural competition for monument designs.
The competition yielded the selected design by architect H. Van Buren Magonigle.
The site for the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. The main Allied military leaders spoke to a crowd of close to 200,000 people. It was the only time in history that these leaders were together at one place. In attendance were Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General John J. Pershing of the United States; and Admiral Lord Earl Beatty of Great Britain.
After three years of construction, the completed Liberty Memorial opened on November 11, 1926 – eight years after the end of the War. President Calvin Coolidge delivered the dedication speech, in which he spoke of how “the magnitude of this memorial, and the broad base of popular support on which it rests, can scarcely fail to excite national wonder and admiration.”
As the United States' largest memorial to World War I, the Liberty Memorial is a national treasure and stands as a beacon to the Courage, Honor, Patriotism and Sacrifice of those who seek to preserve Liberty.
More than 15 million men and women sacrificed their lives in World War I, the most defining event of the 20 th century.
The Walk of Honor contained personalized, engraved granite brick as dedicated as personal tributes to specific individuals or groups who served. These dedications are made to keep their memories alive.
“We would never expect any monument or formal recognition for what we do or have done. The granite in these bricks may be cold and hard, but the veterans themselves would be humbled by the warmth of the recognition.” – Steve Berkheiser, Brigadier General, USMC (Retired)
In recognition and our thanks to:
Take this link to view the Memorials in Europe:
Take this link to learn more of the FIRST WORLD WAR:
Pearl Harbor – USS Arizona Memorial
Oil droplets bubble to the surface of Pearl Harbor above the USS Arizona, creating a vivid link to the past. ON a quiet Sunday morning December 7, 1941 a Japanese surprise air attack left the Pacific Fleet in smoldering heaps of broken, twisted steel. Here, peace was interrupted and paradise lost. IN hours, 2,390 future were stolen, half of these casualties from the battleship Arizona.
This is what happened.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was the culmination of a decade of deteriorating relations between Japan and the United States over the status of China and the security of Southeast Asia. The breakdown began in 1931 when Japanese army extremists in defiance of government policy, invaded and overran the northernmost Chinese province of Manchuria. Japan ignored American protests, and in the summer of 1937 launched a full-scale attack on the rest of China. Although alarmed by this action, neither the United States nor any other nation with interest in the Far East was willing to use military force to halt Japanese expansion.
Over the next three years, war broke out in Europe and Japan joined Nazi Germany in the Axis Alliance. The United States applied both diplomatic and economic pressures to try to resolve the Sino-Japanese conflict. The Japanese government viewed these measures, especially an embargo on oil, as threats to their nation's security. By the summer of 1941, both countries had taken positions from which they could not retreat without a serious loss of national prestige. Although both governments continued to negotiate their differences, Japan had already decided on war.
The attack of Pearl Harbor was part of a grand strategy of conquest in the Western Pacific. The objective was to immobilize the Pacific Fleet so that the United States could not interfere with these invasion plans. The principal architect of the attack was Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Though personally opposed to war with America, Yamamoto knew that Japan's only hope of success in such a war was to achieve a quick and decisive victory. America's superior economic and industrial might would tip the scales in her favor during a prolonged conflict.
On November 26, the Japanese attack fleet of 33 warships and auxiliary craft, including six aircraft carriers, sailed from northern Japan for the Hawaiian Islands. If followed a route that took it far to the north of the normal shipping lanes. By early morning, December 7, 1941, the ships had reached their launch position, 230 miles north of Oahu. At 6 a.m. the first wave of fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes took off. The night before, some 10 miles outside the entrance to Pearl Harbor, five midget submarines carrying two crewmen and two torpedoes each were launched from the larger “mother” subs. Their mission: enter Pearl Harbor before the air strike, remain submerged until the attack got underway, then cause as much damage as possible.
Meanwhile at Pearl Harbor, the 130 vessels of the U.S. Pacific Fleet lay calm and serene. Seven of the fleet's nine battleships were tied up along “Battleship Row” on the southeast shore of Ford Island. Naval aircraft were lined up at Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay naval air stations, and at Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. The aircraft belonging to the U.S. Army Air Corps were parked in groups as defense against possible saboteurs at Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows airfields.
At 6:40 a.m., the crew of the destroyer USS Ward spotted the conning tower of one of the midget subs headed for the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The Ward sank the sub with charges and gunfire, and then radioed the information to headquarters. Before 7 a.m. the radar station at Opana Point picked up a signal indicating a large flight of planes approaching from the north. These were thought to be either aircraft flying in from the carrier Enterprise or an anticipated flight of B-17s from the mainland, so no action was taken.
The first wave of Japanese aircraft arrived over their target areas shortly before 7:55 a.m. Their leader, Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida, sent the coded messages “To, To, To” and “Tora, Tora, Tora” telling the fleet that the attack had begun and that complete surprise had been achieved.
At approximately 8:10, the USS Arizona exploded, having been hit by a 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb that slammed through her deck and ignited her forward ammunition magazine. IN less than nine minutes, she sank with 1,177 of her crew, a total loss. The USS Oklahoma, hit by several torpedoes, rolled completely over, trapping over 400 men inside. The California and West Virginia sank at their moorings, while the Utah, converted to a training ship, capsized with more than 50 of her crew. The Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, all suffered significant damage. The Nevada attempted to run out to sea but took several hits and had to be beached to avoid sinking and blocking the harbor entrance.
While the attack on Pearl Harbor intensified, other military installations on Oahu were hit. Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows airfields, Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station, and Scholfield Barracks suffered varying degrees of damage, with hundreds of planes destroyed on the ground and hundreds of men killed or wounded.
After about five minutes, American anti-aircraft fire began to register hits, although many of the shells that had been improperly fused fell on Honolulu, where residents assumed them to be Japanese bombs. After a lull at about 8:40 the second wave withdrew to the north, and the attack was over. The Japanese lost a total of 29 planes and five midget submarines, one of which was captured when it ran aground off Bellows Field.
The attack was a great, but not total, success. Although the U.S. Pacific Fleet was shattered, its aircraft carriers (not in port at the time of the attack) were still afloat and Pearl Harbor was surprisingly intact. The shipyards, fuel storage areas, and submarine base suffered no more than slight damage. More importantly, the American people, previously divided over the issue of U.S. involvement in World War II, rallied together with a total commitment to victory over Japan.
Behind the shadows of destroyed airfields, aircraft, and ships, America fought fear, and a determined enemy responding with an unrivalled war effort. An epic battle for democratic ideals and world freedom would bloody the fields of Europe and the islands of the Pacific over the next four years.
The USS Arizona Memorial as a national shrine symbolizes American sacrifice and resolve. Through national tragedy, a “sleeping giant awoke” and the United States moved towards its destiny as a global power.
World War II's best known Memorial – U.S.M.C. War Memorial
The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of this grateful Nation's esteem for the honoured dead of the U.S. Marine Corps. While the statue depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775.
The small island of Iwo Jima lies 660 miles south of Tokyo. One of its outstanding geographical features is Mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano that forms the narrow southern tip of the island and rises 550 feet to dominate the area. By February 1945, U.S. troops had recaptured most of the territory taken by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942; still uncaptured was Iwo Jima, which became a primary objective in American plans to bring the Pacific campaign to a successful conclusion.
On the morning of February 19, 1945, the 4 th and 5 th Marine Divisions invaded Iwo Jima after a somewhat ineffective bombardment lasting 72 hours. The 28 th Regiment, 5 th Division, was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi. They reached the base of the mountain on the afternoon of February 21, and by nightfall the next day had almost completely surrounded it. On the morning of February 23, Marines of Company E, 2 nd Battalion, started the tortuous climb up the rough terrain to the top. At about 10:30 am, the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi thrilled men all over the island. That afternoon, when the slopes were clear of enemy resistance, a second, larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, and PhM. 2/c John H. Bradley, USN.
News-photographer Joe Rosenthal caught the afternoon flag raising in an inspiring Pulitzer Prize winning photograph. When the picture was later released, sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the U.S. Navy, was so moved by the scene that he constructed a scale model and then a life-size model of it. Gagon, Hayes, and Bradley, the three survivors of the flag raising (the others having been killed in later phases of the Iwo Jima battle), posed for the sculptor who modelled their faces in clay. All available pictures and statistics of the three who had given their lives were collected and then used in the modelling of their faces.
During the month long battle, more than 6,800 American Marines lost their lives.
Erection of the memorial, which was designed by Horace W. Peaslee, was begun in September 1954. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, officially dedicated it.
The base of the memorial is made of rough Swedish granite. Burnished in gold on the granite are the names and dates of every principal Marine Corps engagement since the founding of the Corps, as well as the inscription: “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775.” Also inscribed on the base is the tribute of Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz to the fighting men on Iwo Jima: “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virture.”
The entire cost of the statue and developing the memorial site was $850,000 –all donated by U.S. Marines, former Marines, Marine Corps Reservists, friends of the Marine Corps, and members of the Naval Service. No public funds were used for this memorial.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
From 1950 to 1953, the United States joined with United Nations forces in Korea to take a stand against what was deemed a threat to democratic nations worldwide. At war's end, a million and a half American veterans returned to a peacetime world of families, homes, and jobs – and to a country long reluctant to view the Korean War as something to memorialise. But to the men and women who served, the Korean War could never be a forgotten war.
The passing of more than four decades has brought a new perspective to the war and its aftermath. The time has come, in the eyes of the Nation, to set aside a place of remembrance for the people who served in this hard-fought war half a world away. The Korean War Veterans Memorial honors those Americans who answered the call, those who worked and fought under the trying of circumstances, and those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.
The National Vietnam Veterans Memorial “The Wall”
This gallery contains pictures and stories of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Known simply as “The Wall”, this monument is one of the most visited sites in the city of Washington.
After watching the film “The Deer Hunter” in 1979, Vietnam Veteran Jan C. Scruggs first conceived of the idea for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A Yale architectural student, Maya Lin, submitted the winning design.
Tearing across the ground in fitting metaphor as an emotional scar, the wall of names accurately depicts the enormity of the suffering, by both the soldiers and the civilians who lived through that turbulent period. It continues to evoke raw emotions and tears - - many tears. Pilgrims make the journey every day, both relatives of the dead and those interested in our nation's history. It's not uncommon to see folks rubbing pencil against paper to copy names off the wall, or leaving flowers and pictures.
This has been complimented over the years with two more conventional dedications. The first, Frederick Hart's Statue of the Three Servicemen, was added in 1984 to modify those who thought the original design too dark and divisive. The second commemorates the sacrifices made by female members of the Armed Services during the conflict:
Diane Carlson Evans, RN, is the founder of this Memorial project. She served in the Army Nurse Corps from 1966 to 1972 and was in Vietnam from 1968-1969. The sculptor is Glenna Goodacre, who created the Women's Memorial in bronze.
Glenna Goodacre's vision, the Vietnam Women's Memorial, was added in 1993. Some of their names are with their brothers' on “The Wall”.
“The Wall” was built in Constitution Gardens in Washington, D.C., through private donations from the public, and dedicated in 1982.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial was dedicated over Veterans Day weekend of November 10-12, 1993.
“The Power of a Name”
by Valerie an 8 th grade student at The Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California. She wrote this story following a visit to The Wall by her class. This is beautiful writing by a thirteen-year-old girl who felt the power of a name.
Women In Military Service for America Memorial
A major Arlington Cemetery highlight is the Women in Military Service America Memorial. Marked by a fountain and circular reflecting pool, this striking monument is the first in the nation to honor 1.8 million women who have served our country: cooks in the Revolutionary War, nurses in the Civil War, WACS and WAVES in World War II, Doctors and nurses in Korea and Vietnam and pilots serving in Desert Storm, Somalia and Bosnia.
Construction of the women's memorial began with Arlington Cemetery's original gates, which date to 1932. Renovated in 1996 and completed two years later, the historic structure was integrated into its present design for the Women's Memorial. Architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, husband and wife team from New York, have made imaginative use of water, light and passage as symbols of women's accomplishments.
The 33,0-00 square foot facility houses a 196-seat theatre, Hall of Honor (note the “sister block” of Colorado marble, which matches the marble in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier), a conference room, gift shop and gallery. Permanent exhibits include a cane owned by civil war physician Mary Walker, the only women to win the Medal of Honor; a pair of custom-made mosquito boots worn by Army nurses in Africa in 1942 to protect their legs, a cloths pin made by an army nurse who was a POW in the Philippines during World War II and a censored letter (where words were actually cut out), sent by a nurse stationed in New Guinea. – Celeste McCall
“Thanks for the Memories”
By Benson Rose Pictures of the dedication and parade for Vietnam Women's Memorial and photos of “The Wall” on Memorial Day 1992. There is also a wonderful photo of Arlington Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery
Veterans from all the nation's wars are buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through the Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.
The federal government dedicated a model community for freed slaves, Freedman's Village, near the current Memorial Amphitheater, Dec 4, 1863. More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land by the government, where they farmed and lived during and after the Civil War. They were turned out in 1890 when the estate was repurchased by the government and dedicated as a military installation.
In Section 27, are buried more than 3,800 former slaves, called “Contrabands” during the Civil War. Their headstones are designated with the word “Civilian” or “Citizen”.
The Department of the Army administers Arlington National Cemetery and Soldiers Home National Cemetery. The Department of Veterans Affairs, or the National Park Service administers all other National Cemeteries.
Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and the grounds in its immediate vicinity are administered by the National Park Service.
The flags in Arlington National Cemetery are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day. Funerals are normally conducted five days a week, excluding weekends.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknowns is one of the more-visited sites at Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb is made from Yule marble quarried in Colorado. It consists of seven pieces, with a total weight on 79 tons. The Tomb was completed and opened to the public April 9, 1932, at a cost of $48,000.
Three unknown servicemen are buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns:
- Unknown Soldier of World War I, interred Nov. 11, 1921. President Harding presided.
- Unknown Soldier of World War II, interred May 30, 1958. President Eisenhower presided.
- Unknown Soldier of the Korean Conflict, interred May 30, 1958. President Eisenhower presided, VicePresident Nixon acted as next of kin.
- An Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Conflict, interred May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided.
The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were disinterred May 14, 1998, and were identified as those of Air Force lst Lt. Michael J. Blassie, whose family has reinterred him near their home in St. Louis, Mo. It has been determined that the crypt at the Tomb of the Unknowns that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain empty.)
The U.S. Army 24 house a day, 365 days a year guards the Tomb of the Unknowns. The 3 rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) began guarding the Tomb April 6, 1948.
For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5'10” and 6'2” tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30”.
Other requirement of the Guard:
They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. They cannot swear in public FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES and cannot disgrace the uniform (fighting) or the tomb in any way.
After TWO YEARS, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.
The shoes are specifically made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.
The fist SIX MONTHS of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and Medal Honor winner Audie Murphy, (the most decorated soldier of W.W.II) of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends FIVE HOUR A DAY getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.
The Sentinels Creed:
My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect. His bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honoured glory rest under my eternal vigilance.
The Third Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer has the responsibility for providing ceremonial units and honor guards for state occasions, White House social functions, public celebrations and interments at Arlington National Cemetery and standing a very formal sentry watch at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The public is familiar with the precision of what is called “walking post” at the Tomb. There are roped off galleries where visitors can form to observe the troopers and their measured step and almost mechanically, silent rifle shoulder changes. They are relieved every hour in a very formal drill that has to be seen to be believed.
Some people think that when the Cemetery is closed to the public in the evening that this show stops. First, to the men who are dedicated to this work, it is no show. It is a “charge of honor”. The formality and precision continues uninterrupted all night. During the nighttime, the drill of relief and the measured step of the on-duty sentry remain unchanged from the daylight hours. To these men, these special men, the continuity of this post is the key to the honor and respect shown to these honoured dead, symbolic of all unaccounted for American combat dead. The steady rhythmic step in rain, sleet, snow, hail, heat and cold must be uninterrupted. Uninterrupted is the important part of the honor shown.
Recently, while you were sleeping, the teeth of hurricane Isabel came through this area and tore hell out of everything. We had thousands of trees down, power outages, traffic signals out, roads filled with downed limbs and “gear adrift” debris. We had flooding and the place looked like it had been the impact area of an offshore bombardment.
The Regimental Commander of the US Third Infantry sent word to the nighttime Sentry Detail to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds, to ensure their personal safety.
THEY DISOBEYED THE ORDER!
During winds that turned over vehicles and turned debris into projectiles, the measured step continued. One fellow said “I've got buddies getting shot at in Iraq who would kick my butt if word got to them that we let them down. I sure as hell have no intention of spending my Army career being known as the damned idiot who couldn't stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty.” Then he said something in response to a female reporters question regarding silly purposeless personal risk… “I wouldn't expect you to understand. It's an enlisted man's thing. “God bless the rascal .. In a time in our nation's history when spin and total B.Sc. seem to have become the accepted coin-of-the-realm, there beat hearts – the enlisted hearts we all knew and were so damn proud of – that fully understand that devotion to duty is not a part-time occupation. While we slept, we were represented by some damn fine men who fully understood their post orders and proudly went about their assigned responsibilities unseen, unrecognised and in the finest tradition of the American Enlisted Man. Folks, there's hope. The spirit that George S. Patton, Arliegh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us – survives.
On the ABC evening news, it was reported recently that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabel approaching Washington, D.C, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They refused. “No way, Sir!”
Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just as assignment; it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since 1930.