We are excited to announce that Lifetime Member Dennis McMahon (TGIB #320), was recently the interview subject of “Professor Buzzkill”. Professor Buzzkill is a blog and podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way. The show has debunked everything from Sherman’s march to the sea and Abner Doubleday inventing baseball to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Rosa Parks. After stumbling across the podcast on Twitter and enjoying a few episodes, we sent the Professor an idea to debunk the infamous Tomb Guard email forward. And the rest is, as they say… history.

Joseph Coohill, aka "Professor Buzzkill"

Joseph Coohill, aka “Professor Buzzkill”

As the professor would say, the podcasts:

“…seek to ‘debunk’ historical myths. A history myth is a story about the past which isn’t true, nevertheless, gets lots of attention. Many people believe what they hear without thinking critically about it, or checking to see whether it’s true. That’s how urban legends start — you know, the ones like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials died while eating PopRocks and at the same time as drinking Coke. A history myth is just an urban myth about days gone by.

Serious historians, however, are careful about saying categorically that something is ‘true’ or ‘not true.’ In fact, rather than saying something ‘happened’ or ‘is true,’ most historians prefer to say, ‘there is good evidence for that.’ And rather than saying something ‘didn’t happen,’ they prefer to say ‘there is no good evidence for that.’”

Professor Buzzkill sometimes goes by the alias Joseph Coohill, and is a historian of modern Britain and Ireland. He has a doctorate in modern history from Oxford and an MA in history from the University of Melbourne and a BA from Humboldt State University in California. He is the author of Ideas of the Liberal Party and Ireland: a Short History (4 editions), as well as many articles and internet pieces on history.

This podcast will be released on November 10th, to coincide with Veterans Day. You can visit http://professorbuzzkill.com/ or find the podcast on iTunes here. We hope that you enjoy the podcast and have a great Veterans Day reflecting on the World War I Unknown interment 94 years ago.

Adam L. Dickmyer was born on February 2, 1984 in York, Pennsylvania. He attended Mineral Springs Elementary and Middle Schools before graduating from Carver High School in 2002, where he participated in Reserved Officers’ Training Corps. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army as an Infantryman in 2003. Upon completion of basic training he attended the US Army Airborne school before his first assignment with the 3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

Adam Dickmyer in Afghanistan

Adam Dickmyer in Afghanistan

In April 2004, he was assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) as 2nd Relief Commander, and eventually was given the responsibilities as the Assistant Sergeant of the Guard. He also served as the official ‘Voice of the Old Guard’ in audio guided tours of Arlington Cemetery. He served with distinction and was promoted to Staff Sergeant, and awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) # 528, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.

Even though he admitted to his family that the duty took a physical toll on his knees, ankles, and feet he felt tremendous pride in service as a Sentinel. In his own words taken from the book “On Hallowed Ground” by Robert Poole, SSG Dickmyer said, “We take it one step further because we are so visible. Thousands of people see us every day – more come here than go to the Jefferson Memorial – so we want to make the best possible impression. And we want the guys who sacrificed everything to know that they are still remembered, that someone still cares. That’s why we do it.”

Former Sentinel Nathan Luman (2003-05), remembers “He always showed respect and carried himself like a Tomb Guard from day one. We all like to tell each other how hard it was back in our time as a new man with each new generation not having it nearly as tough as the previous generation… Dickmyer was one of the guys who would’ve made it no matter when he tried out. I could tell that about him.”

In September of 2007, SSG Dickmyer was re-assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Echo Company where he served as the Casket Team Leader for the Joint Services State Funeral Team for two years. He was personally selected to be the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) and in August 2009 led the Joint Services State Funeral Casket Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy.

SSG Dickmyer sought to develop his leadership skills and had the desire to serve oversees in combat so that he could be the best possible leader to the Soldiers serving under his direction. With this in mind, in 2009 SSG Dickmyer was assigned to the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Hi unit deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with CJTF-101 within months of his arriving at Fort Campbell, and was given the daunting task of working in the volatile Afghan provinces adjacent to the Federally Administered Tribal Area of western Pakistan.

In an interview after his death, Captain David Forsha who was the A Company Commander, attested to SSG Dickmyer’s leadership abilities remembering: “By the time we deployed, I knew SSG Dickmyer was fully capable of leading his squad in combat. Within a few weeks, I would come to realize he was ready to lead a platoon. In June, SSG Dickmyer was selected to serve as the Platoon Sergeant for 3rd Platoon, and he excelled in one of the most coveted positions a Non-Commissioned Officer can hold.”

On October 28, 2010 SSG Adam Dickmyer, while acting as Platoon Sergeant, was killed in action near Kandahar, Afghanistan during a dismounted patrol by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). SSG Dickmyer was his platoon to the Arghandab River, a feat no unit had accomplished. He died while leading his men into this important, but uncharted terrain. SSG Dickmyer became the third Tomb Guard in history to be killed in action.

Staff Sergeant Dickmyer’s award and decorations include: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (6 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal, Army Superior Unit Award, , Combat Infantryman’s Badge , Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and the German Troop Proficiency Badge (Gold).

SSG Dickmyer was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, with many of the Soldiers he trained and led carrying him to his final rest.

Sentinels and brothers in arms solemnly watch the memorial service for SSG Adam L. Dickmyer

Sentinels and brothers in arms solemnly watch the memorial service for SSG Adam L. Dickmyer

Former Tomb Guard Adam Newman (2005-06) thinks of his brother Tomb Guard and says, “I miss you bud. I wear your bracelet daily. Thanks for giving me a chance, thanks for believing in me. I still work every day to live the standards you taught me.”

Private First Class Michael Young, who served with SSG Dickmyer in Afghanistan, shared his memories during the memorial service in Afghanistan, “I looked up to SSG Dickmyer like a brother. He was more than I could dream of as a role model– always pushing me mentally, physically, personally, and professionally. SSG Dickmyer is 95% of the reason I’m here and successful today. In my worst times, when I was just ready to leave the platoon and the Army, he spent countless hours of his time, whether he had the time or not, to talk sense to me and get me to stay.”

Former Tomb Guard Chase Neely (2006-09) remembers “You were a good leader and a good friend. You are missed by everyone. Thank you for seeing my potential and encouraging me to push forward.”

SSG Dickmyer is buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Video of SSG Dickmyer conducing the Changing of the Guard:

Legacy Member Mindy Dickmyer shares her thoughts on the anniversary of her husband’s death at: http://otherwar.com/video-portrait-mindy-dickmyer/

Photo by Rex Looney

Photo by Rex Looney

William R. Spates Jr.

William Richard Spates, Jr. was born September 8, 1939, in Washington, DC to a family with a long history of service to the United States. An avid history buff, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1957. Upon completion of basic training he went to Airborne School at Ft. Campbell, KY, prior to his assignment to 48th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division in Germany, in August 1959.

His brother James, who also went into the US Army and retired after 23 years, remembers, “We were very close, what you call Irish twins, as he was only 10 and a-half months older. He had three brothers and all four were in the Army, and our Dad was a World War II Marine.'”
In September 1963, he was assigned to 1st Battalion (Reinforced), 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). In 1964, he was assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) as 1st Relief Commander. He served with distinction and was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal (Second Award) and the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) # 33, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.

Former Sentinel Paul Frinstahl (1965-67) remembers that, “As a new guy I often wondered what I was doing there. To myself I would say ‘these guys are beyond any goal I might set…they are good!’. When I first saw SSG Spates I considered him the “Ideal Guard.” He had the look and the walk and the skills that made him a leader and example for all those at the Tomb…especially the new guys.”

Former Sentinel Richard Azzaro (1963-65), who was acting 2nd Relief Commander, remembers “When Bill came down he asked me to teach him the inspection. We worked very hard on this and I shared with him all that I knew. That came very easily because he was as intense as I was and he never let up. He was a quick study. He was new, but very much wanted to be at the Tomb and wanted to be among the best. He was totally committed to the Army and the Tomb Guard.”

Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remember that “He had a great sense of humor. He used to tease SOG Eldredge about putting their “steel pots” on and sitting around a campfire telling war stories. SSG Spates knew SOG Eldredge was a combat vet and POW in Korea.”

Former Sentinel James Woods (1964-65) remembers his Relief Commander as “A fun loving guy, a regular military person. But he had a great sense of humor, and was supportive of everything we did.”

Former Sentinel Raymond Homyk Sr. (1963-65) remembers that, “SSG Spates was my relief commander, and he assigned SP4 Benny Higdon as my trainer, along with himself. There was not a stricter trainer, or more knowledgeable pair, that knew the history of those interned in Arlington National Cemetery and all the history…except for the Sergeant of the Guard Allen Eldredge, at that time. If I wasn’t standing back against the wall or walking hours on the mat in the catacombs, or doing the manual of arms over and over (which had to be perfect), they kept me studying the facts of the cemetery. Because they were the best of the best, they put me on the path to be my best.”

SSG Spates requested an assignment in Vietnam, and was stationed with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Advisors as a Light Weapons Infantry Specialist. Upon arrival to Vietnam in May 1965, he was detailed to the 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion in Pleiku, Vietnam.

Former Sentinel Richard Azzaro (1963-65) remembers, “Bill had orders to Viet Nam just as I was leaving the Army. I remember vividly our talking about his leaving in the Tomb Guard quarters (on North Post) and how I cautioned him to take care. We were very solemn in our parting.”

Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers that, “He as a happy, positive guy. He had requested reassignment to Viet Nam and was excited by the prospect of combat. I’ve always felt he had a true Warrior’s heart.”

On October 25, 1965 at the age of 26, SSG William Spates was killed in action defending the base and its occupants during a brutal attack. The base was overrun with enemy, who had been practicing for the assault for over a year, and SSG Spates was killed in a foxhole by a direct mortar strike. SSG Spates became the first Tomb Guard to be killed in action.

Staff Sergeant Spate’s award and decorations include: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Date Palm Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and Vietnam Ranger Badge.

Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers hearing the news, “I was in the catacombs, on duty. We were all stunned for a bit, but then we went into Tomb Guard gear and immediately set to planning out what we needed to do for the funeral & family.”
Arrangements were made for his funeral, and subsequent burial in Arlington National Cemetery. SSG Spates had requested that if he were killed in action, he wanted to buried close the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Army honored this request.

Former Sentinel Robert Woodruff (1964-65), a pall bearer, remembers helping the Sergeant of the Guard pin the Tomb Guard Identification Badge on SSG Spates at the funeral home prior to the viewing of his body: “It was very unsettling. I noticed one thing at the time and said something to SOG Eldredge, that he had no shoes on, but black socks with a ID tag around his big toe. We pinned the badge on his chest, and it was the first and last time I ever saw SOG Allen get emotional. SOG Eldredge, in his usual stern manner, cautioned him ‘to pin it on straight’ ”.

Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers that the Sergeant of the Guard “Decided who would be the pall bearers. Back in those days the platoon was smaller, and each relief had no more than 5 on a relief. Including the Sergeant of the Guard, we were considered fully staffed at 16 soldiers.”

SSG Spates was laid to rest in Section 27, close the Tomb and the Unknown Soldiers he stood watch over. Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers, “First Relief was on duty that day so the funeral was handled by 2nd and 3rd Reliefs. I was part of the pall bearer team, which was led by Staff Sergeant Morris Moore. My one vivid memory was of Sergeant Moore, as he and SSG Spates had been very close. We realized how close when the mourning SSG Moore signaled to begin folding the flag DURING, rather than after, Taps. We made it looked planned, though, by completing the fold right at the last note.”

Former Sentinel Raymond Homyk Sr. (1963-65) remembers, “I am humbled to have known him. To this day I believe I am who I am, because of SSG Spates and SOG Eldrege”

SSG Spate’s strong reputation as a leader, have influenced younger generations of Tomb Guards, even though they never met him. Former Assistant Sergeant of the Guard Kevin Welker (1997-2001) mentioned, “I have always prided myself on being the Relief Commander of First Relief based on his position as the same. Many times I visited his resting place in ANC. In a gesture of respect I placed roses on his grave after my final walk.”

Former Sentinel John Gouldin (1984-85) remembers as that Sentinel’s from the eighties that “An on-going tradition was to take a handful of flowers from the many wreathes lined up just off the plaza, make a bouquet and take it down to his grave. I remember after many longs hours on duty to happily walk the flowers through the dewy grass and say “good morning” to SSG Spates”.

SSG Spates’s name can be found on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 2E, Row 134.

His headstone is in Section 7, within direct sight of the Tomb.

His headstone is in Section 7, within direct sight of the Tomb.

Written by Gavin McIlvenna, SHGTUS Vice President

Dear Members:

Please make note that if you are an annual member and you did not select the auto payment option via PayPal, you will receive a reminder approximately one month prior to your due date.

If for any reason your due date passes without payment received, you will be removed from the active membership roster, but your name will be archived for easy retrieval should you decide to join the Society again. Once you pay the current dues, your membership will be reactivated.

We certainly understand that life goes on and sometimes things fall to the wayside. Rest assured that we will not forget you!

If you have any questions regarding membership, feel free to contact me by e-mail at




Kevin V. Welker


Membership Committee

Marvin “Lyle” Franklin Jr. was born on July 15, 1945 in Oklahoma City, where he graduated from Putnam City High School in 1963. He was a member of the Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Putnam City Methodist Church, and the Bethany Masonic Lodge where he served as Senior DeMolay. He was an automobile and woodworking enthusiast whose hobbies included rebuilding car engines and restoring furniture.

SGT Franklin

SGT Franklin

In 1965, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was initially assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment “Old Guard” as an Infantryman. He served as a Sentinel and Assistant Relief Commander at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from July 1966 until February 1967. During this time he was awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) #56, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.
After his service in the Old Guard, he was assigned to the A Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division (Air Mobile) and sent to Vietnam in March 15, 1967.

Former 2nd Relief Commander Sergeant Irvin Emerson (1966-68) remembers when Marvin got his orders for Vietnam; “He was by heritage a Native American, and both his Grandfather and Father were chiefs of the counsel. Marvin was in line to be a chief, so he didn’t have to go. No one knew this, and Marvin would never use it to dodge his duty.”

On arrival at the 1st Cavalry Division base camp, all soldiers such as Sergeant Franklin attended a mandatory course on combat air assault tactics, rappelling, guerrilla warfare, and other subjects. The 2/8 Cavalry Regiment, also known as the “Mustangs “, were sent to Vietnam in September 1965. The Mustangs saw some of the fiercest battles and actively patrolled the jungles of Vietnam to the north and south of Highway 1, east of Bien Hoa, until it stood down in June 1972.

Sergeant Franklin was killed in action on the night of August 31st, 1967 at Binh Dinh, South Vietnam while on patrol.

Former Sergeant of the Guard (SOG), Master Sergeant Thomas Bone (1959-62) remembers, “It was a terrible shock when we received the news that a fellow Tomb Guard, Marvin, had been killed in Vietnam. I was extremely pleased when asked by the Old Guard Commander to go to Oklahoma and assist the Franklin family in setting up the military honors for Marvin. I was met at the airport by family members and taken directly to the family home.”

While planning on staying a local hotel, SOG Bone stated that the family wouldn’t have it and they “insisted that I stay at their home. I felt very at ease with the family and decided to stay with them.” SOG Bone stated that a local military funeral detail was sent to perform the final honors, and he started training them to Old Guard standards the next morning. “I would have loved to have old guard members for the service, but must admit that those men did an outstanding job and the family was well pleased.”

Sergeant Franklin’s awards and decorations include: Bronze Star w/”V” Device, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal. National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

The passing of Sergeant Marvin L. Franklin, Jr may be forgotten by most…but not by the Tomb Guards and the Soldiers he served with in Vietnam. As Sergeant Emerson remembers, “I look at pictures he took of me and pictures I took of him, I think about all the grave sites that overtook the open spaces at Arlington while I was there and I still cry. One of the pictures I have in my living room is of all the Tomb Guards at a wreath laying on Christmas Morning 1966, honoring the Unknowns. Marvin is next to me… but the following Christmas he was gone.”

Christmas Wreath Ceremony, 1966

Christmas Wreath Ceremony, 1966


During the years following Sergeant Franklin’s burial, SOG Bone formed a very special bond with his parents, Phyllis and Marvin, Sr. In 1968 they were invited to take part as the first civilians to participate in the Tomb Guards Christmas morning wreath laying ceremony.


Christmas Wreath Ceremony, 1968 with members of Franklin family

Christmas Wreath Ceremony, 1968 with members of Franklin family

Written by Gavin McIlvenna, SHGTUS Vice President

The Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) Centennial Committee is proud to announce the implementation of one of the many projects currently under development as we approach the 100th Anniversary of the burial of an Unknown American Soldier who fought and died in World War I, and is buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) in Arlington National Cemetery.

The National Salute is a means to show our deep respect for our Unknown Soldiers buried in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery.   On the the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th Month in 2021 Americans across the United States and foreign lands, will pause to recognize those who have sacrificed and those who will sacrifice in the future in the defense of America’s “Freedom and Democracy.”

The Centennial of the TUS will be that National Moment when all of America pauses to remember and to unite with those that have secured our most cherished beliefs and our National identity with their blood and treasure.  They will renew their acquaintance with Washington’s deepest desire for National unity; with Lincoln’s faith that our embracing the belief that “…all men are created equal….” connects each of us to every patriot grave and with the courage of Congressman Hamilton Fish to bring all of America together.

This commemoration provides to those who abide in our Land a unique opportunity to celebrate America’s unshakeable commitment to the dignity of man as was so defiantly set forth in the Declaration of Independence.   It is an opportunity to express individually and collectively, their sense of service and national unity; and their thanks for what this country has done for them. This powerful concept and belief are witnessed every day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where, as Congressman Hamilton Fish intended, it is a place to serve as a focal point, where all of America can come together.

The SHGTUS Centennial Committee invites you to reach out into your community to help us implement Phase 1 of the National Salute this year.  For more information on how you can help project please contact the Public Affairs Director at publicaffairs@tombguard.org.

Sergeant Major (Retired) Gavin McIlvenna

SHGTUS Vice President
SHGTUS Centennial Committee Chairman

“The whole scene was pitiful.”

July 28 marks the anniversary of the Army’s role in ousting the veterans of World War I from the national capital. The so-called “Bonus Army” was comprised of veterans seeking an early distribution of the bonus that was promised to them by the government to help alleviate the impact of the Great Depression.

Bonus Army members confront police.

Police confront Bonus Army members.

What began as a slow trickle of veterans soon swelled into a large, organized group of as many as 20,000 awaiting the vote of Congress on the Patman Bill – which was authorized as a plan in 1924 as a way to compensate veterans for wages lost while they served in the military during the Great War. But payment was to be deferred until 1945. In 1931 Congress overrode a presidential veto to allow half of the amounts to be paid. However, as the economy worsened, that half payment just wasn’t enough.

Walter Waters, a veteran from Oregon, is credited as being the leader of the Bonus Army. With the aid of Pelham Glassford, the superintendent of the city’s police and a former veteran, the veterans were able to obtain food, clothing, medical services, and established an area for shelter along the Anacostia River.

In June, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Patman bill, but the Senate defeated it by a vote of 62 to 18. Many veterans accepted the defeat and, at the expense of the government, went home. Several others, with nowhere else to go, decided to stay. Rumors of Communist involvement fanned the flames, and on July 28 Glassford was ordered by the Secretary of War to clear out the camps. Glassford was seen as a traitor to the veterans and in the ensuing melee, the police opened fire, killing one veteran and mortally wounding another.

President Hoover called out the Army from nearby Fort Myer in a effort to once and for all evict the Bonus Marchers from the city. The Army, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur marched into the city supported by a cavalry unit under Colonel George Patton. At first it appeared that the soldiers, horsemen, and tanks were moving in to support the veterans. Only when the cavalry charged into the Bonus Marchers did the intent of the Army become painfully clear. MacArthur, against the orders of President Hoover followed up the rout by advancing across the Anacostia Bridge into the Bonus Army camp. The camp was summarily burned to the ground…insuring that the veterans could not return.

The plight of the Bonus Army was indeed a black-eye for the Hoover Administration and the Army. Despite his efforts to justify his decision in his memoirs, Hoover would go on to lose the election to Franklin Roosevelt in November of 1932. Oddly enough, Roosevelt too was not in favor of advancing the payments to the veterans, but he did create the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which offered the men employment. Three years later, Congress passed legislation over Roosevelt’s veto to complete the bonus payment, resolving one of the more disturbing issues in American politics.



The government buried the two Bonus Army veterans who were slain by police at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

HushkaWilliam Hushka (1895-1932) was an immigrant from Lithuania who, when the US entered World War I, sold his butcher shop in St. Louis and enlisted at the age of 22 as a private in the 41st Infantry. After the war, he lived in Chicago. He was killed instantly by gunfire from the police.


Eric Carlson (1894-1932) was from Oakland, California. He fought in the trenches of France during the war. He was shot and mortally wounded by the police and died later that day.

– Kevin Welker
“The Bonus Army” Eyewitness to History
Kingseed, Wyatt. “A Promise Denied: The Bonus Expeditionary Force.” American History, June 2004, 28-35.

Anne Cady via Find A Grave

This past April a SHGTUS Founding Father, Larry Seaton (Tomb Guard Identification Badge #106, 1970-71), set out to summit Mount Everest. He was present when a MW 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. He was one of a record 359 climbers at Base Camp on the mountain. Twenty-two people were killed, making the earthquake the deadliest disaster on the mountain. This is his personal account of the event and the following days. 

Larry with his Tomb Guard Identification Badge

Written by Lawrence Seaton SHGTUS Treasurer

Four and one half years ago, at the age of fifty-nine, I discovered the world of alpine mountaineering.  Since that beginning I have reached the summits of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Whitney in California, Mt. Rainier in Washington and five of the world’s Seven Summits – Antarctica, North America, South America, Africa and Europe.  In March of this year, I left to climb my sixth world Summit, Mt. Everest, the highest peak in Asia and the world.  I have a small, personal items summit sack that I take on all of my trips and the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) has always been along on my climbs.

In the late morning of April 25th, I was laying in my tent at Everest Base Camp reading and thinking about putting on my boots so I could walk over to our dining tent where we usually ate lunch around 12:30.  I had arrived at the 17,599 ft. base camp twenty-one days earlier after having completed an eleven day hike up the Khumbu Valley.  During that thirty-five mile trip up the valley, we spent our evenings at teahouses in five different villages starting at Phakding at an elevation of 8,563 ft.  In order to avoid suffering from Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS), the best procedure is to acquire new heights slowly, therefore, we had a 9,000 ft. altitude increase spread out over eleven days.

My guide company was Rainier Mountaineering (RMI), based out of Ashford, Washington.  I have climbed with them on all of my international trips and also to Mt. McKinley in Alaska, North America’s highest peak.  The RMI camp was situated on top of the Khumbu Glacier along with the other five hundred plus climbers camps who were there to climb Everest or Lhotse or Nuptse.  Everest Base Camp is not a circular like compound.  It follows the glacier so it’s spread out for about a mile and maybe 1,000 ft. wide.  The glacier is not flat as it is melting and strewn with boulders and piles of rocks.

So there I was, sitting in my tent starting to put my boots on when at 11:56 the glacier under me started shaking.  I had been on glaciers before that moved but it had always been a sharp, short jolt when they do.  What I was experiencing was the beginning of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that would last for thirty plus seconds.  The epicenter of the quake was located fifty miles west of Kathmandu near the small village of Gorkha.  Everest is about one hundred miles east of Kathmandu.  At the same time earthquake was taking place, I started hearing cracks popping above the camp that I knew were avalanches starting and then a huge boom like a cannon going off in back of my tent.  The cloud cover that morning was around 18,000 ft. so we could not look up at the mountains to see the avalanches, but we heard them coming.  I was on my hands and knees with my head stuck outside my tent talking to the RMI base camp manager, Mark Tucker, who was standing about thirty feet from me.  He was looking above my tent and yelled at me “to get behind something!”.  What he was seeing was an avalanche rolling towards us that had thundered down Mt. Pumori and had day lighted below the cloud cover.  I looked over my shoulder and saw it and knew I had no time to get out of my tent and run so I just backed into my tent and dropped on my stomach just as the avalanche hit us.  In just fifteen to twenty seconds, it was over.  I had no time to be afraid as my initial emotional reactions were surprise and amazement.

Larry at Base CampI got up on my hands and knees and pushed my tent up into its original shape although it had suffered a couple bent tent poles.  Mark called out to me and asked if I was OK to which I responded that I fine.  Crawling out of my tent I was greeted by a campsite of flattened or destroyed tents covered with six to eight inches of fine powdered snow.  Mark was OK as he had hidden behind a pile of stone rubble.  We checked on our Sherpa camp crew and they were also OK.  Our next concern was the rest of our teammates who were above us at Camp 1 located at 19,800 ft. (I was stuck at Base Camp due to bronchitis).  There was over 160 people at Camp 1.  Even though our communications tent had been destroyed, our radios still worked.  Our team was fine and it appeared that the other teams had pulled through. They had also experienced avalanches but none of them had touched the camp area.

The next order of business was to check-in with the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA).  Every year, they provide medical services at Base Camp.  Mark called them on the radio and learned that their camp was flattened and that injured people were stumbling in for medical treatment.  Mark decided to go help with the injured and directed me to stay at our camp and work with the Sherpa’s to try to put our world back together.  It began snowing right after the Pumori avalanche and we also suffered minor aftershocks and two large aftershocks that day over magnitude 6.0.  Due to the snowfall, rescue helicopters from Lukla were unable to fly.  The ER Docs and volunteers treated over 80 injured people. We learned later that day that the route through the Khumbu Icefall was destroyed and continued to deteriorate with each aftershock.

The climbers at Camp 1 were trapped.

Aftermath at Base CampOn the morning of the 26th, the weather cleared and the helicopters started arriving to ferry the injured down to Lukla to get on fixed wing flights to Kathmandu.  Some of the very seriously injured people were helicoptered directly to Kathmandu.  All of the injured were flown out by sundown. Unfortunately, eighteen people were in body bags and they were the last to leave Base Camp.  With the injured cared for, we next turned our attention up the mountain to the climbers at Camp 1.

On the afternoon and evening of the 26th, four of the major climbing team leaders (including RMI) assembled to develop evacuation plans for Camp 1.  A second landing pad had to be quickly built at Base Camp plus the designation of two pad areas at Camp 1.  The Camp 1 climbers had to be organized so it was clear who was to jump onto each helicopter when they landed.  Organization and speed were required as we were still in a world of aftershocks (a 6.7 quake hit at 12:54 PM) and the weather could cloud in without notice. The Nepalese government was also trying to commandeer all privately owned helicopters to aid in earthquake relief rescues.  We didn’t know how much longer we could keep “our” helicopters.  Late into evening, plans were finalized and the helicopter companies notified.  We just needed good weather the next day.

The morning of the 27th brought patchy clouds but three helicopters stormed up the valley anyway.  These pilots are either crazy or fearless, or maybe both.  These are not pilots flying your typical helicopter, they fly the Eurocopter AS350 B3 made in France.  In May of 2005, a B3 touched down on the 29,035 ft. summit of Mt. Everest.  They thrive at high altitude.  Around 6:00 AM the airlift began with the three helicopters rotating back and forth between Base Camp and Camp 1.  The RMI team arrived “home” at 10:04 AM.  By 12:50 PM, the airlift operation was completed.  Looking back over the three days of ongoing disastrous conditions and how the climbing teams pulled together, everyone involved must agree that it was one of mountaineering’s finest hours. LS5

It was now time to leave our highly unstable world and so the mass exodus from Base Camp began.  Some elected to fly out and some, like me, decided to walk down into an unknown world of potential rockslides, landslides and damaged or destroyed stone buildings.  Every village we passed through suffered some kind of damage.  It was like passing through ghost towns, a sharp contrast to the same villages we had traveled through at the end of March.  We arrived in Lukla on May 2nd.  The next day we were in Kathmandu and by the 6th, we were all headed home to the USA.

My experience at Mt. Everest was just a small pinpoint in a country racked over and over again for weeks by aftershocks and ongoing destruction.  On May 12th a magnitude 7.3 quake hit fifty miles east of Kathmandu.  All of the homes of my Sherpa teammates have been either destroyed or severely damaged.  As of June 4th, there have been 8,709 fatalities, 784,484 destroyed or damaged houses, 2.8 million people need assistance and it is estimated that it may take $10 billion to rebuild the damaged areas. 

One of the many programs that the Society of the Honor Guard provides is SHGTUS Educational Scholarships to benefit Tomb Guards, their families, and individuals sponsored by Tomb Guards. The scholarships are awarded by the SHGTUS Education Committee on a recurring annual basis to individuals meeting certain criteria specific to each scholarship. The 2015 SHGTUS Scholarship recipients are:

The Adam Dickmyer Memorial Scholarship
Captain Ryan Ball (2003-06)

The Neale Cosby Scholarship
Former Specialist Joshua Wesnidge (2012-14)

The SHGTUS Freedom Scholarship
Ryan Haupt, grandson of George Haupt

TG on right side from right: Sergeant of the Guard SFC John Wirth, SSG Brian Blackmore, and SGT Patrick Leamy

TG on right side from right: Sergeant of the Guard SFC John Wirth, SSG Brian Blackmore, and SGT Patrick Leamy

The Military District of Washington Sergeant Audie Murphy Club  (MDWSAMC) inducted three Sentinels from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier into their ranks on Audie Murphy’s birthday, June 19. The MDWSAMC recognizes Army Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) whose demonstrated performance and inherent leadership qualities and abilities that are characterized by those of Sergeant Audie Leon Murphy.

The induction and membership into the MDWSAMC is a reward for NCOs whose leadership achievements and performance merit special recognition. The SAMC is a means of recognizing those NCOs who have contributed significantly to the development of a professional NCO Corps and a combat ready Army. Members exemplify leadership characterized by personal concerns for the needs, training, development and welfare of Soldier and their Families.

Newly inducted were the Sergeant of the Guard (SOG) SFC John Wirth, Relief Commander SSG Brian Blackmore, the Assistant Sergeant of the Guard (ASOG) SGT Patrick Leamy.  Congratulations on receiving this very prestigious honor!