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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
William 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.
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.
I 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.
On 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.
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
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!
Larry Vaincourt’s classic poem was first published in his 1987 Remembrance Day newspaper column. There are several incorrect versions of this poem circulating the web; below you’ll find the original text. A special thank-you to his son Randy for his kind permission to re-post his father’s poem on our site.
Just A Common Soldier
(A Soldier Died Today)
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.
–A. Lawrence Vaincourt
On this National Medal of Honor Day, we would like to share the citations for each Unknown as issued by the War Department and later the Department of Defense.
World War I Unknown:
By virtue of an act of Congress approved 24 August 1921, the Medal of Honor, emblem of highest ideals and virtues is bestowed in the name of the Congress of the United States upon the unknown American, typifying the gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, of our beloved heroes who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. They died in order that others might live (293.8, A.G:O.) (War Department General Orders, No. 59, 13 Dec. 1921, sec. I).
World War II Unknown:
AN ACT To authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving overseas in the armed forces of the United States during the Second World War. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is hereby authorized and directed to award, in the name of Congress, a Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving overseas in the armed forces of the United States during the Second World War, and who will lie buried in the Memorial Amphitheater of the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, as authorized by the Act of June 24, 1946, Public Law 429, Seventy-ninth Congress. Approved March 9, 1948. Public Law 438, 80th Congress.
Korean War Unknown:
AN ACT To authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving overseas in the Armed Forces of the United States during the Korean conflict. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is hereby authorized and directed to award, in the name of the Congress, a Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving overseas in the Armed Forces of the United States during the Korean conflict, and who will lie buried in the Memorial Amphitheater of the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, as authorized by the Act of August 3, 1956, Public Law 975, Eighty-fourth Congress. Approved August 31, 1957. Public Law 85_251.
AN ACT To authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era and who has been selected to be buried in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is hereby authorized and directed to award, in the name of the Congress, a Medal of Honor to the unknown American who lost his life while serving in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam era as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States and who has been selected to lie buried in the Memorial Amphitheater of the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, as authorized by the National Cemeteries Act of 1973.
To learn more about the Unknowns and the selection process, go here.
ARLINGTON, Va. — In honor of African-American History Month, Fred Moore, the first African-American Tomb Guard, recalled his journey from serving as a firing party member in Honor Guard Company in 1960, to making history a year later.
When Moore entered the Army in 1959, it was an unsettling feeling. It wasn’t because he was drafted. It wasn’t because he didn’t have a desire to serve his country. It wasn’t even the tension rising in Vietnam. Moore was an African-American Soldier entering the service during the Civil Rights Movement.
“I had three older brothers who had been in the service, and the advice they gave me before I left was to keep my mouth shut and don’t volunteer for anything,” Moore said jokingly.
But Moore, determined to find his own way, volunteered for service in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), a decision which catapulted him into history.
Moore admits he wasn’t very familiar with The Old Guard, but a series of good scores on the Army entry test, or more so his stature, made him a good candidate.
“The officer at the reception station said you’re 6 foot 1, 185 pounds. You’re the right size for what they’re looking for,” Moore recalled.
Before he could give one more minute’s thought, Moore agreed to join The Old Guard.
“I was in Honor Guard Company assigned to the 3rd platoon,” said Moore. “We performed most of the burials at Arlington National Cemetery. We did parades and different ceremonies in Washington, Fredericksburg and all around Maryland. We were the number one firing team.”
Moore acknowledges he was a well-known Soldier in the regiment, not so much for the accolades his team was receiving around the region, but for the team’s distinct difference.
“I was obvious wherever I went,” said Moore. “I was the only black on a military firing party. The officers would come up and they would tell me, ‘We see you and you’re doing a good job.'”
This statistic would prove to be in Moore’s favor in the form of a visit from President Kennedy and a Ghanaian president.
“When President Kwame Nkrumah came from Africa and he and Kennedy were laying a wreath at the tomb, he asked Kennedy why he didn’t see anyone of color,” said Moore.
Shortly after, Moore was directed to report to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for training. Moore distinctively remembers the brotherhood he established right away with his counterparts. Despite being the only African-American there, no one ever treated him differently.
“They all treated me very, very fairly,” said Moore. “You can’t make it as an individual. It’s got to be teamwork. You always need somebody to help you put your uniform on and make sure it’s straight in the back, patting it down for lint and stuff like that.”
However, on a crisp autumn morning in March of 1961, as Moore stepped onto the marble floor to perform his first walk as an official Tomb Guard, his brothers-in-arms kept an important secret from him.
“I didn’t know at the time that I was breaking the color line. They didn’t tell me that until after, which I think was a good idea,” said Moore. “It was enough pressure just being a Tomb Guard. They thought it was best if I didn’t know until after it happened.”
Looking back, Moore admits it was never about making history as the first African-American Tomb Sentinel, but fulfilling the mission.
“It was a job that I was given, and I just considered it a great honor” said Moore. “I was always of the mindset that if I was given something to do, I was going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Today, Moore’s humility remains his central point, although for sentinels who have served after him, he is a celebrity in his own right.
“I was really surprised the first time I went back for the Tomb Guard reunion. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They knew me but I didn’t know them,” said Moore, referring to the attention he received from Soldiers currently serving at the Tomb.
Moore was shocked to learn what all the commotion was about.
“They said you’re an answer to a question on the test of who is the first African-American to serve at the Tomb,” said Moore.
Sentinels must take a detailed 100-question test, in addition to other tasks, in order to earn a Tomb Guard badge.
“I think it’s a little much,” laughed Moore. “When young guys talk to me about being the first, I tell them I just took the opportunity that was afforded to me, but you guys are taking it to another level so I am more proud of you all then I am of myself.”
Moore’s greatest wish, however, is that Soldiers today not dwell on his monumental accomplishment but find an inner drive in themselves.
“I hope it gives them the confidence that they can do anything they set their mind to do,” said Moore. “I’m not anything special. Certainly if I can do certain things, they are capable of doing even greater.”
At our 2014 reunion banquet we were honored to have Patrick K. Hallinan as guest speaker. Mr. Hallinan served as Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery from October 2010 to July 2013. Here are his remarks delivered that night to our membership. It is a long read but full of great information about the direction of Arlington National Cemetery… past, present, and future!
It is an honor to be here this evening — to be surrounded by so many who are the unbroken chain of soldiers maintaining a constant vigil of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, our nation’s tribute to all missing and unknown service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice — they not only gave their lives, but also their identities to protect the freedoms of all Americans.
For 150 years, Arlington National Cemetery has been a special place of honor, remembrance, and tradition for people across this great nation – and around the world. Once created out of necessity during the American Civil War, Arlington is now a national shrine, honoring the service and sacrifice of the more than 400,000 active duty military members, veterans and their families who rest here, and paying tribute to the historic individuals and events that have shaped our nation.
And for the many who visit Arlington – those from our great nation as well as those from around the world, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Sentinels who guard it, are seen as THE symbol of honor and remembrance, the epitome of our military’s selfless service and sacrifice for the people of our country.
From the American Revolution to the conflicts of the 21st century, the history of the United States, and of its people, can be seen throughout Arlington National Cemetery. On a daily basis, our team bears witness to this history, and plays a role in creating history as well. ANC staff performs our noble mission of laying our veterans to rest with honor and dignity, and those who walk the mat to maintain the constant vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown of the Unknown Soldier — not only share a sacred trust, we also share in the continuing legacy of Arlington as a living memorial to the heroes of the past and the heroes yet to come.
As we all know so well, no plot on ANC’s sacred ground can be purchased, it must be earned through honorable service to our nation. To wear the Tomb Guard badge is something that can only be earned through dedication, perseverance, diligence and nothing less than perfection.
Why is Arlington significant
Arlington National Cemetery is the nation’s premiere military cemetery. It is the place where presidents and military leaders are buried among those they led, as well as the symbol of reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War, but most importantly, it is a place of military tradition that honors the sacrifice of those who have served.
There were three major turning points in the 19th century that set Arlington on its path to become our national shrine:
- First, by the end of the Civil War, there were more than 15,500 soldiers buried at Arlington, more than any of the other, 33 national cemeteries.
- Second, in 1868, General John Logan, the Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30th as Decoration Day. Arlington National Cemetery became the location of the first national observance. In the early 1870s, Arlington’s Decoration Day Observance drew crowds of 25,000 a year – more than the population of Washington, DC at the time.
- Third, in the 1870s through the 1890s, many of the Union generals from the Civil War wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, along with the troops that they lead.
In the 1900s, Arlington became the symbol of reconciliation. In 1900, Congress authorized a Confederate section be established at Arlington National Cemetery. Confederate veterans were moved there from around Arlington National Cemetery, the Soldier’s Home cemetery, and Alexandria Cemetery. Today, there are 482 Confederate veterans buried at Arlington.
In 1906, Congress authorized the construction of a Confederate Memorial. It was designed by the famed sculptor and Confederate veteran Moses Ezekiel. The memorial was dedicated in June 1914. Ezekiel is buried there today.
The Memorial Bridge was built between 1922 and 1932 as a symbol to link the North and South. Arlington House is directly aligned with Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial. The Memorial Bridge ties Arlington National Cemetery to the District of Columbia and makes visiting the cemetery more accessible.
In 1955, the Arlington House was officially designated as the Robert E. Lee Memorial.
The first repatriations of U.S. service members from overseas were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including the sailors who perished on the USS Maine from the Spanish-American War.
The Old Amphitheater was not able to accommodate the large crowds that came each year for Memorial Day, so Congress authorized the construction of the Memorial Amphitheater. Construction began in 1915 and it was dedicated in 1920.
This is the moment when you all become a part of Arlington’s rich history. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater. The World War One Unknown was buried on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921. The vigil of guarding the Tomb began in 1926. The white marble sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War One in 1931. It is inscribed: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
President William Howard Taft was the first president buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The death and burial of President John F. Kennedy forever changed Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington was important to the military community, but the burial of President Kennedy propelled the cemetery onto the international stage. Television allowed the world to witness the rich military tradition of Arlington National Cemetery.
Seven million people visited the cemetery in the year after President Kennedy’s burial. Arlington’s burial requests grew exponentially each year after the president’s death and the cemetery was predicted to run out of burial space in the 1980s if it did not enact eligibility restrictions and expand the footprint of the cemetery. The first eligibility restrictions for burial at Arlington National Cemetery were established in 1967.
This year marks our 150th year as a national cemetery. This past summer, Arlington National Cemetery hosted five weeks of events from May through June that honored Arlington’s traditions, remembered the sacrifice of those who are buried here and explored our rich history. We started with a wreath laying ceremony on May 13 at the gravesite of Army Pvt. William Christman, who was the first military person buried at Arlington, and had ten days of informative lectures and tours. Our capstone event was a first-ever evening show in the Memorial Amphitheater that paid tribute to Arlington’s past, present, and future. We concluded our commemoration with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on June 16, the day after Arlington officially became a national cemetery.
Enhancements to the Memorial Amphitheater
For the first time in four decades, the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room has been updated. The new exhibits provide the 3.5 million plus visitors who visit the Tomb each year the historical context that had been missing. They tell the story of Arlington National Cemetery, the Memorial Amphitheater, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In addition, they help our visitors understand the history of the Tomb Guards, who maintain their constant vigil over our Unknown, and tells a brief story of the history and role of The Old Guard.
Going forward, we will renovate the top floor and lower level, as well. This will give us additional space for exhibits and opportunities for visitors to explore the rich history of the Memorial Amphitheater.
We are in the process of replacing the flagstone around the Memorial Amphitheater and other parts of the cemetery. We expect to have this project complete in 2015. We’ve partnered with the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center to clean the Memorial Amphitheater. We have finished cleaning the marble benches inside the Amphitheater and is currently testing products for the exterior.
- Tomb Guard Passes
- Flexible parking for those serving now
- PT “Old Guard” morning
- Ceremonial cannon battery practice
- ANC Staff appreciate and respect
We’ve recently put in all new appliances in the Guard Quarters and will renovate the Briefing Room early next year. The renovation will include new historical exhibits and overhead lighting.
Looking at the future
Families come from all over the country to bury their loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery and you may wonder how long it will it will remain an active cemetery. I’m pleased to tell you that Arlington will be available for decades to come. The Army remains committed to maintaining Arlington as an active cemetery for as long as possible to continue to honor and serve our Nation’s military heroes.
In support of that commitment, last year we completed the construction of Columbarium Court 9. It is the largest Columbarium Court at Arlington – it is nearly the length of two football fields and added 20,296 burial niches for cremated remains. Columbarium Court 9 extended the cemetery’s projected capability to accept cremated remains from 2016 until approximately 2024.
Construction has started on the Millennium Project, which is the expansion in the northern part of the cemetery. When construction is complete, it will add more than 27,000 new burial spaces for both casketed and cremated remains (est 2035).
Our last expansion project is on the southern side of the cemetery, into the land formerly occupied by the Navy Annex. We are in the earliest stages of project planning and will create a project concept that is both an appropriate expansion to the cemetery and a place of honor for our veterans and their families. Although it is too early to tell what the final development will yield for the southern expansion site, we project that with the Millennium and the southern expansion, the cemetery will have first interment space through the mid-2050s.
100th Anniversary of World War One
As part of the centennial observance of the First World War, the United Kingdom is honoring all of its Victoria Cross recipients. The Victoria Cross is equal to the U.S. Medal of Honor and was awarded to only five Americans during World War One, including the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. On November 21, 1921, the British government presented our World War One Unknown with its highest honor, the Victoria Cross. On November 6th, representatives of the United Kingdom will conduct a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as unveil a bronze plaque dedicated to all five of our American Victoria Cross recipients. This plaque will remain on display in the Amphitheater Display Room through the World War One centennial and the 100th anniversary of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 2021.
Approaching the Tomb Centennial
The 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is quickly approaching. I’ve met with the centennial planning committee and look forward to marking this important milestone in Arlington’s history. We are submitting a request to the U.S. Postal Service and members of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to create a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemoration stamp for the 100th anniversary. The process takes a number of years, but we think the Tomb is a strong candidate because it is THE symbol of honor and remembrance, the epitome of our military’s selfless service and sacrifice for the people of our great country.
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and every patriots grave, to every living heart and hearthstone” (AL – Prez – USA)
I thank each of you for all that you have done and continue to do to honor the service and sacrifice of our military members – past and present. We must never lose sight of the sacred trust we have held and continue to hold. Arlington – and its legacy – is far bigger than any of us – we are the temporary stewards – part of a small, yet powerful team of dedicated men and women who’s been privileged to serve at such a remarkable place.
There were many highlights from this past reunion. Perhaps the most unique was the performance of the musical piece, Arlington Sons, by David and Richard Pittsinger. David is a renowned Broadway star who commissioned the piece in 2011 to specifically perform with his son Richard, a soloist and graduate of New York’s Saint Thomas Choir School. The piece tells a very unique story, of a father bringing his son to Arlington Cemetery for the first time to observe the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It “illuminates a universal experience—the changing of the guard between generations—in a uniquely American context. It is believed to be the first-ever musical composition written for a real-life father and son.”
David’s motivation to commission a piece came from a desire to pay tribute to his late father, Richard M. Pittsinger who was a Tomb Guard in the 1950s. Composer Scott Eyerly, wrote the piece with this connection in mind. Observing the live performance, many Tomb Guards noted that Arlington Sons really told a multi generational story with David’s father Richard, the Tomb Guard, having an unseen but tangible presence.
The Society of the Honor Guard has a phrase, “soldiers never die until they are forgotten, Tomb Guards never forget”. Arlington Sons is the living embodiment of that idea and we salute the Pittsinger family for their moving tribute and thank them for sharing it with our members at our 2014 banquet! It was a once a lifetime performance and our organization thanks David and Richard for their commitment to paying tribute to the Unknowns and his father.