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At the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) general membership meeting in October 2014, the Board of Directors approved the formation of the Centennial Committee. The committee was directed to act as the point of contact for Society matters related to the 100th Anniversary of the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). The committee was directed to develop resources, coordinate, and implement new Society educational campaigns, programs, and media releases associated with the Centennial.
The Centennial Committee works closely with other non-profit organizations and governmental agencies within the conscripts of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA FY2017 Section 1094) in this endeavor.
Our members are working tirelessly in every community in America to bring attention to the Unknown Soldiers, the anniversary of the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier, why the Tomb as a national monument is important, and the Sentinels who have stood the watch since 1937 and continue to do so 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.
We view the Centennial not only as a celebration to remember the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier, but an opportunity to reflect on what the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier means to America. On three instances since 1921, the remains of unknown servicemen have been interred at the TUS. However, the remains of the serviceman representing the Vietnam Unknown Soldier were removed after positive identification. This crypt remains empty, but a marker was placed over the crypt honoring all soldiers still missing (MIA/POW).
This underscores the larger purpose of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and rings true to legislation that created the TUS by Congressman Hamilton Fish, who viewed the TUS as a focal point ot bring all Americans together – that its meaning be not limited to the Great War and the exclusive claim of that War’s veterans.
We hope you will join us in this national endeavor.
Sergeant Major (Retired) Gavin McIlvenna (1997-1998)
President, Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS)
The Centennial Committee acts as the point of contact for Society matters related to the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and will develop resources, coordinate and implement new Society educational campaigns, programs, and media releases associated with the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Why is this important?
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was never intended to be about war, but about the American people’s service and sacrifice for this country.
The entombment of the Unknown Soldier of World War I in Arlington National Cemetery on 11 November 1921 gave voice and form to the profound grief, respect, love and pride of the American people for their war dead that ensured that America’s freedom would endure.
The champion of this national gesture, Congressman Hamilton Fish, intended that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier would serve as a focal point to bring America together: a place where Americans could better understand the meaning of service and sacrifice. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a place that fosters a unifying National identity that transcends America’s differences of race, politics and religion.
As generations passed, connections to our past have diminished. Our unifying National identity is challenged on many fronts. And yet, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, stands in marked contrast to time’s effect upon public and private values and opinion. Rather than fade with the passing of those who bore the scars of World War I, World II, Korea and Vietnam, the National interest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has intensified. Each day sees the American people renew their commitment to never forget or forsake those who have served and sacrificed or those who serve now or in the future.
For nearly 100 years, the future that those who have served and sacrificed on the battlefields of World War I, so that our freedoms would endure, has been made a reality.
The American people, young and old, from every walk of life, come to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and experience the power of a united America that 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, demonstrates its unshakeable commitment to never forget those who “gave their tomorrow for our today” and to discover their connection to every patriot grave as mentioned in our Declaration of Independence.
The Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on 11 November 2021 should reflect, project, and strengthen the truly national character of this sacred place. We intend that our efforts reach out to all Americans throughout the United States. Our purpose is to help the American people mark this anniversary and to reaffirm that the American people are ever ready to provide their service and sacrifice in support of their American ideals.
You can make a difference through your small charitable donation. Through your help, we will be able to achieve this monumental event and help honor those that have given some and those that have given all by serving in our military branches in World War I. We are a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization and we receive no institutional funding. Please join us by donating today by clicking HERE.
There are many ways you and your community can get involved with the Centennial, but the largest project that you can get involved with today is the National Salute. Since 2015, we have reached out to over 523 organizations in 50 states, asking them to participate on 11 November. Want to be added to the list of participating organizations? Simply fill out the request form by clicking HERE.
For those savvy with social media, please use the hash tags #TUS100 and #NationalSalute and follow us on our Twitter page. Don’t forget to send pictures and stories to us so we can publish and celebrate your community’s participation.
Education is one of the primary missions of the Society, and you can help bring attention to the Centennial by requesting a Tomb Guard to do a Community Presentation at your school, civic organization, church, or group. Since the Society’s inception in 1999 we have conducted over a thousand presentations and upon request, the Society will attempt to schedule a former Tomb Guard to make a presentation and answer questions relating to the Unknown Soldiers, the Tomb and the Society.
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The Centennial Committee is currently working on many projects and Centennial Week. Here are a few highlights of some of what we are working on.
Independence Seaport Museum
US Capitol Historical Society Project
The SHGTUS Centennial Committee invites you to reach out into your community to become part of the National Salute this year.
The Centennial Committee is proud to announce the continuation 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, re-instituted in 2015, 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 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.” This was first conducted during the internment ceremonies in 1921, and broadcast to over 150,000 citizens across the nation who were listening to the ceremony via a live “phone call” by AT&T.
City, town and church bells have served our country and its citizenry from the very beginning. They can do so again. Imagine a silent afternoon in your community where you start to hear the bells toll. Steady and resounding, they ring and are joined by other bells, until all you hear is a crescendo of bells echoing through your community. Then you remember, it’s November 11th at 11:00 a.m. You stop what you are doing and count 21 seconds, standing in solidarity with everyone else in the U.S.A. And as the bells slowly start to fade away, perhaps you hear the haunting wail of a lone trumpeter playing ‘Taps’. A silence once again envelops your community, and you realize that the bells were telling everyone that a moment of remembrance had arrived. (In keeping with the solemnity of the moment, the observance can be marked by a silent count of 21 seconds in recognition of that number’s association with America’s highest honor.)
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.
Ready to help? Creating a simple ceremony that fits your community should include:
21 Count Honors – Be creative with a 21 Count Honors (bell ringing with five second interval between counts) — by all available means — gun salute (land and sea), church bells, rifle salute, ROTC, police and fire dept. sirens, etc. This calling to “Attention” of the freedom loving people of the world for purposes of rendering the highest honors to those Americans who have paid the ultimate price for freedom. All military installations on land, at sea and in the air should use whatever means they have to celebrate and honor those who have given their life for this country. Communities are invited to pay respects to the honored dead. Religious organizations, patriotic organizations, scouting organizations, schools, communities, libraries, industrial and business entity of all sizes, unions, communications media, social media, transportation services and individuals across the land are invited to participate in these highest honors. The idea is for the American people to pause, show their gratitude, and render their highest honors to the people’s unsung valor.
Great Silence – for two minutes, the first minute for those who have already sacrificed and the second minute for those who will sacrifice in the future with their lives for the American way of life. This two-minute silence ceremony is a reenactment of the respect shown by our nation during the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month, 1921. It is a universal feeling for those who gave their all and for whom we can never fully repay. It is a grateful nation pausing to honor our Nation’s promise to never ever forget or to forsake America’s glorious and immortal dead and missing. Itis a centennial commemoration due those who “gave their tomorrow for our today.”
Taps – The sounding of Taps across the nation and around the free world. This easily recognized emotive and powerful twenty-four notes bugle call is the international melody for “lights out” — final resting for deceased soldiers. Here we will never forget your sacrifice. And here we commit ourselves to maintain a country worthy of your sacrifice. This synchronized playing of Taps around the free world by individuals and organizations is a solemn calling for the defense of free peoples worldwide.
Your community can use different models and venues in honoring the Centennial of this nation’s symbol of patriotism. Some individuals/organizations will be able to conduct formal ceremonies, while others may be less formal. We encourage all communities to commemorate, as they like, this transcending moment in the life of the United States of America. Like personal birthdays, it is a snapshot to celebrate the past and hope for the future.
Here are some examples of venues for commemorative ceremonies that may be helpful in planning for Thursday, November 11, 2021:
The creds, oaths, pledges as appropriate
Reading of the Congressional Resolution
Reading of the Presidential Proclamation
Remarks by leaders, e.g. governor, college president, scout leaders, religious leaders, high school principals and/or class presidents, post/station/base commanders, naval vessel commanders, business leaders, and leaders of patriotic and service organizations.
The National Anthem
Following the last note of the National anthem, the National Salute will begin with the first round of the 21 gun/count salute occurring at the 11th hour. The two minutes of the Great Silence will begin following the 21st gun/rifle/drum beat, church bell count; after which Taps will be sounded.
In April 2015, the Society sent a letter to the United States Postal Service requesting a stamp commemorating the Centennial Anniversary (1921-2021) of the interment of the Unknown Soldier from World War 1 commemorating the end of the “war to end all wars” on the eleventh hour – of the eleventh day – of the eleventh year (November 11, 1921).
The goal of the Society is to make certain that the individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives and their identity for our freedom are not forgotten, and that American citizens understands this price of freedom and never forgets their sacrifice.
The United States Postal Service stamp would insure that the American public would be educated about the Tomb and the United States of America unknown war heroes buried in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater.
In August of 2015 the USPS advised the Society that our proposal will be submitted for review and consideration before their Advisory Committee, which is responsible for reviewing stamp proposals and making recommendations to the Postmaster General.
You can contact the Postmaster General and ask him to approve the proposed stamp:
United States Postal Service customer contact number, 1-800-ASK-USPS
The Postmaster General 475 L’Enfant Plaza, Washington DC 20260.
The Centennial Lapel pin is pictured at the top of this webpage. The first project the committee tackled was the design and creation of our Centennial Lapel Pin. THe pin was designed by one of the committee members who wanted to capture the feeling of what a visitor sees when standing on the steps of the plaza and looks toward the Tomb and the crypts.
There is much symbolism designed into the lapel pin starting with the three crypts at the base of the Tomb. The green trees behind and east of the Tomb are reminiscent of the summer days in Arlington. The dark blue outer ring is reminiscent of the blouse the Sentinel wears, which was authorized by the Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office on March 27, 1821. The light blue sky represents the color of the Infantry, paying homage to the Sentinel’s parent Regiment, the 3d United States Infantry (The Old Guard) which is the oldest Infantry Regiment in the Army and has provided Sentinels who guard the Tomb since 1948. The black numerals in the dates 1921 to 2021, and the inverted gold wreath represent mourning.
These pins are available to the public and the proceeds will help fund other Centennial Committee projects in the future. Information on how you can purchase a Centennial Lapel Pin and support the Society can be found by visiting our Quartermaster Store.
Members of our committee have reached out to both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America to develop a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier related merit badge that would provide a more in- depth experience for these future leaders, and would be an important component of our nation’s centennial commemoration.
We are researching and he historical documents, photographs, and items surrounding the transportation of the Korean War Unknown Soldier, Trans-Pacific Candidate, and the Vietnam Unknown Soldier by United States Air Force (USAF) or United States Navy (USN) aircraft. We hope to create a presentation on what we have found during Centennial Week in 2021.
If you took part in any of these events or were crewmembers on the aircraft, please contact the Centennial Committee Chairman HERE so we can capture your experiences and share them with America.
In conjunction with our efforts with historical aircraft, we are also researching the historical documents, photographs, and items surrounding the transportation of the Unknown Soldiers by USN vessels by the USS Blandy, USS Boston, USS Canberra, and other support vessels as identified during the research. Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy are assisting us with this project.
If you took part in any of these events or were crew members on these historic ships, please contact the Centennial Committee Chairman HERE so we can capture your experiences and share them with America.
Independence Seaport Museum:
The committee is working closely with both organizations to highlight their involvement with Unknown Soldiers in 1921, 1958, and 1984. Check back for updates on our progress.
US Capitol Historical Society Project:
The committee is working closely with both organizations to highlight their involvement with Unknown Soldiers in 1921, 1958, and 1984. Check back for updates on our progress.
Working hand in hand with our Education Outreach program (Click HERE), the Centennial Committee began developing a Tool Box that will be sent to school across America in 2015. The is a box that will contain items selected by the Society that will facilitate the continuance or sharing the experience of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
This project is currently in the second phase where the creation of the actual box is being tested, and a test box will be available at the Society’s Reunion for review by the members.
Declaration of Independence, July 1776 – Click HERE
General George Washington’s letter from Valley Forge, December 1777 – Click HERE
General George Washington’s letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation – Click HERE
President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 1863 – Click HERE
President Abraham Lincoln’s “Electric Cord Speech”, July 4th – Click HERE
General Douglas MacArthur’s Farewell Speech, May 1962 – Click HERE
Dr. John Hamre speech to SHGTUS members, November 1999 – Click HERE
The above documents and speeches capture the essence of America’s commitment to democracy, to the sacrifices her citizens are willing to go to, and the importance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
We urge you to become reacquainted with these word and thoughts. We know you will be inspired once again.
For further information on how you may help us, contact The Centennial Committee, by clicking HERE.