A short note on this 15th anniversary of September 11th. We often get questions about the Tomb Guard and what happened on that day fifteen years ago. I emailed the Sentinel who was posted that day and asked him what he remembered and this is his response.
“When the plane flew over we were in the middle and the guards were passing on their orders. After it hit the Pentagon is when we turned to salute the Tomb. The smoke rising from the Pentagon was a big mushroom cloud. I continued on with the change without missing a beat. When the plane was flying over, [I] didn’t know if it was a fly over for Air Force funeral until it hit the Pentagon. Then after I came down from the changing the guard I let [you] guys know that the Pentagon just got hit.”
The two newest Tomb Guard Identification Badges (TGIB) were earned after a lot of hard work.
Private First Class Noah McKee earned TGIB #640, and became a SHGTUS Member.
Sergeant Kevin Calderon earned TGIB #641, and became a SHGTUS Member.
By Specialist Preston Millison, (2014 – Present)
On the night of February 27th 2016 I had the fantastic opportunity to speak at a screening of Ethan Morse’ documentary “The Unknowns: A Living Documentary” at the University of California San Diego’s Price Center Theater. The documentary focuses on the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and gives an in-depth overview of the grueling selection process that soldiers undergo to obtain the prestigious honor of becoming a Sentinel.
Steven Padilla, a Field Coordinator for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), reached out to Ethan in hope that they could help in showing the documentary to the large veteran community in San Diego. Steve, who was a Combat Engineer (12B), had once thought about becoming a Sentinel, but was told by his Drill Sergeant that he was the wrong MOS and too short. After watching a trailer on the documentary, Steven felt “it takes a special person to guard the Tomb, and I wanted to find out more about who these men and women are. There is so much more going on that what the pubic see, and I wanted to bring this to the veterans and community so they could understand it as well.”
Steven reached out to his small IAVA team and the quickly found that it would cost up to $1000 to rent a documentary theater. “IAVA is small so we don’t have a large budget, but we do a lot with what little we have”. As veterans do, they started thinking outside the box, and found that the university Veterans Staff Association would pay the $600 for the universities theater, and help get the word out.
Not stopping there, Steven wanted to see if it were possible to bring current Sentinels to the event, because “having a current Sentinel would bring such authenticity to the event and a great chance to get to know them, and why they do what they do”. After formally reaching out the 3d United States Infantry (The Old Guard), there we surprised and honored to have a current Sentinel and the Sergeant of the Guard ordered to San Diego, as “it was an honor to knowing that they would leave that hallowed ground and come out” to be a part of the screening.
The Sergeant of the Guard, SFC Paul Basso, and I were selected by the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) First Sergeant to participate and it was nice to get away from the cold weather in Washington DC, and spend some time in sunny San Diego for three days.
SFC Basso, who used to live in Los Angeles, had been to San Diego before and made a point of taking me to the beach because, “he has never been west of Alabama”. Along the way we were able to stop by the USS Midway Museum which was a unique experience.
Over the three days we spent quality time with brother Tomb Guards. Former Sentinel Chad Cavanaugh (1993-98) is an artist and has multiple comic book series that need to be read by everyone. Former Sentinel Christopher “Colin” Anthony (2010-12) is featured in the documentary, and as Ethan said, “Having him there with his family was a true honor. He and his Mom told a story that will be released soon.”
The staff from IAVA brought us all out to California Pizza Kitchen for lunch before the screening, and it was like brothers hanging out for pizza before going to a documentary. For some of us it was a first meeting, but we quickly realized the bond of a unique brotherhood. Chad Cavanaugh said, “I had met Christopher twice and Ethan once before the screening. It was awesome seeing them again. It was the first time to meet Paul and Preston, but it’s always good when running into a Tomb Guard.”
The night of the screening there were approximately 70-100 people, mostly veterans, in attendance. As the director, Ethan Morse (2005-06), mentioned “This was an exclusive prescreening, but kind of low key and mostly to the Veteran community. We wanted to get their feedback to make the final changes/edits for release during May, in time for Memorial Day”.
The atmosphere was one of excitement and intrigue. The “Hollywood” arrival for some was “In my mini-van, with my wonderful wife and two daughters” said Chad Cavanaugh laughingly.
Several people approached me prior to the screening to ask questions about the duties of the guards and how I feel about guarding the Unknowns. It was good to be able to interact with the public outside of Arlington.
Once everyone settled into their seats and the documentary began and the atmosphere became quite solemn. It was interesting to watch the audience quietly whisper to each other in awe of what they were seeing and hearing. The documentary included detailed scenes of how trainees are thoroughly instructed on their rifle manual and their attitudes while on shift. The Changing of the Guard ceremony was described with excellent verbiage and camera work; the documentary was certainly shot in a professional manner. The progress from potential “new man” to passing the Phase 2 test was followed closely, and helped the audience grasp the new and unusual concept of extreme dedication. This characteristic is what I believe left the most impact on the audience’s minds.
At the conclusion of the documentary, the audience was very adamant to ask questions about the guard change and how long certain uniform items took to “get out the door”. After questions were over, several people approached me just to show the gratitude for what we do as Tomb Guards. This gesture helped solidify the place that the Unknowns hold in the hearts of Americans around the country, as they saw more information on the Unknowns themselves and walked away ‘touched’ individuals.
Chad summed up the experience by saying “It was fantastic. My family members (wife, oldest daughter, sister in law and brother in law, my IP attorney and his family) were blown away and now view me differently than before. They are aware that I’m a Tomb Guard, but had no idea what it took or fully meant to be a Tomb Guard. “
Ethan mentioned that there are special screenings being planned for Santa Barbara, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and New York. On Memorial Day a very special screening is planned in San Francisco at the Marine Memorial Hotel. He is also the process of signing theatrical distribution with the company GATHR (www.gathr.com), to help with the distribution of the documentary. “If any Tomb Guard wants to volunteer to be a local movie Capitan, pursue media about their service in Arlington, and then have a Q&A after the film about their service we would love to be in contact with them. “
Anyone interested in finding out more information could they please email Ethan at TheUnknownsMovie@gmail.com
I am honored to have had the opportunity to spread more public awareness about the Unknowns so that they may receive the attention and respect by the masses, and not just focus on the Tomb Guard.
by Benjamin Bell, (2001-2004)
In January, SHGTUS received a request to train the Tampa, Florida based Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Honor Guard.
Back in 2012, several of the officers from the HCSO had trained with the active Tomb Guard component down at the Quarters, and they were looking to brush up on their training and wanted an assessment and tips on the ceremonies surrounding the flag fold over a casket.
We reached out to former Sentinel John Baker (2008-12). John recently left the service and started as a police officer for the City of Tampa Police Department. He really enjoyed the opportunity to provide the county force with recommendations and tips – if for nothing more than interdepartmental bragging rights! On March 4th, John and I met with the HCSO team and spent the day with them assessing and doing some team building. It was a good time and pretty easy, since they already looked pretty darn good!
Tragically, eight days later, HCSO lost their 16th officer in the line of duty when Deputy John Kotfila was killed in the line of duty on March 12th. It was truly an honor to provide Tomb Guards and SHGTUS members for this unique opportunity.
We asked the new Sergeant of the Guard (SOG) to write a brief introduction for our last newsletter and we are happy to share it here.
Greetings fellow Tomb Guards. I am Sergeant First Class Paul Basso the new Sergeant of the Guard. I have taken over as the SOG and Platoon Sergeant. I am a former Tomb Guard and served from 2000 to 2003 and have been given the unique opportunity of serving TUS again. I’m married to my wife, Jessica without children and we live in Dumfries, VA. My hobbies include woodworking, numismatics, and antiquing.
I have been in the Army for 17 years as a Military Policeman and have served in many assignments while stationed at Fort Myer, Scofield Barracks, Fort Shafter, Fort Drum, West Point, Smith Barracks, Germany, Afghanistan (2012-13) and Iraq (2007-08).
While looking for a new assignment near my wife’s school I had two options, Korea and Fort Myer, it was an easy decision. To prevent separation from my wife I choose to return to the Old Guard. Good timing provided me an interview for the SOG position. I was selected and I re-entered TUS Training in October, to brush up on the changes since I was here last, and completed training in February. Working with and for Soldiers is what has kept me in the Army, it’s the most rewarding work for an NCO. The opportunity to work with Soldier who are also Tomb Guards is especially important for me. I look forward to helping and watching these fine Soldiers grow as Soldiers and Guards.
As I write this the weather has changed and it is finally what appears to be spring outside, the Cemetery is beautiful place. The TUS Platoon is filled with a new generation of Guards, they are better than I ever was and it’s an honor to serve those that serve the Unknowns.
Its good to be back.
Ladies and gentlemen…
Did you know that the Society currently offers three scholarships? Through the approval of the Board of Directors, the amount awarded is set at no less than $1000 per scholarship!
The application is available online, or you can request a paper copy. Any and all required documentation can also be sent via the online application.
There are certain requirements for each, so if you or your children, grandchildren, or the neighbor kid is heading to college anytime soon, I encourage you to visit the Society’s webpage:
If you are a guidance counselor, this will be an excellent opportunity to pass along information to your students!
Thank you…we look forward to hearing from all of you prospective scholars!
DEADLINE IS MAY 15!!!
These are the most recent Tomb Guard Identification Badges (TGIB) earned:
On November 17th, 2015 Specialist Dakota Wilburn earned TGIB #635
On November 17th, 2015 Private First Class Justin Robinson earned TGIB #636
On November 17th 2015 Specialist Aaron Zachary Lopez-Stoner earned TGOB #637, and became a SHGTUS Member.
On December 11th, 2015 Staff Sergeant John Massey earned TGIB #638, and became a SHGTUS Member.
On January 14th, 2016, Private First Class Seth Barbrow earned TGIB #639.
Today, January 18th, Sergeant First Class Paul K. Basso completed training to become the newest Sergeant of the Guard. He is TGIB #484.
Welcome (and welcome back) Brothers!
By Gavin McIlvenna, Centennial Committee Chairman
On November 11th, members of the SHGTUS Centennial Committee facilitated the inaugural National Moment of Silence (NMS) project in five states across the United States. The NMS project, led by SHGTUS Chaplain Chuck Shacochis (1965-67) is one of 15 different projects the Centennial Committee is working on. The focus for this year is on religious organizations, asking them lead their communities in pausing to remember the American Veteran and the 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 across the United States and in foreign lands, Americans were asked to pause and recognize those who have sacrificed and those who will sacrifice in the future in the defense of America’s “Freedom and Democracy.” The concept is to have churches toll their bells 21 times, followed by the playing of Taps. For those churches that don’t have bells we recommended that they pause for 2 minutes at an appropriate time during their service, the first minute for the Veterans of all wars and the second minute for the future Veterans that will continue to defend this great nation.
The NMS project members have been reaching out over the past year, contacting over 40 various religious organizations in ten states to assist in the project. Below are those organizations that replied and participated this year:
Walk of Heroes War Memorial in Conyers, Georgia
Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon in Cove, Oregon
Episcopal Church in Hood River, Oregon
Mid Columbia Fire & Rescue in The Dalles, Oregon
Ocean Breeze Baptist Church in Tillamook, Oregon
Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in The Dalles, Oregon
Zion Lutheran Church in The Dalles, Oregon
Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, New York
Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Bethany Lane Baptist Church in Ellicott City, Maryland
Baltimore-Washington Conference, United Methodist Church in Fulton, Maryland
Next year project members will look to expand the participation and include more first responder organizations across the United States. If you would like to help with this project in your community, please contact me at email@example.com and we will help you get started.
Through recent years, there have been several books written about Arlington National Cemetery. Some of them were “mandatory reading” during training at the Tomb in order to gain more knowledge about the cemetery and those buried there. Gleaning “high speed” knowledge about even the most minute detail from these books made the difference between earning a walk and blousing someone who was going outside.
The following list is by no means the final authority on the works about ANC or a history of the Tomb of the Unknowns, but it is a good place to start. The SHGTUS recommends the following books to our members and visitors as a place to start to gain more information. Please visit the Resources page of the website: https://tombguard.org/society/resources/
Atkinson, Rick, et al. Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Bigler, Philip. In Honored Glory. 4th ed. St. Petersburg, FL: Vandamere Press, 2005.
Demarest, Chris. Arlington: The Story of our Nation’s Cemetery. New York: Flash Point, 2010. (Grades 3-5)
Dodge, George W. and Kim B. Holien. Arlington National Cemetery. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
Peters, James E. Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America’s Heroes. 3rd ed. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House, 2008.
Poole, Robert M. On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery. New York: Walker & Company, 2009.
Poole, Robert M. Section 60 Arlington National Cemetery: Where War Comes Home. New York: Bloomsbury. 2014.
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.
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.