I was recently sent an advanced reading copy of The Unknowns by the editor and was also asked to write up a review for the Society website. The Unknowns will be released on May 22, 2018. Advanced purchases can be made at Amazon.com.
Patrick K. O’Donnell. The Unknowns: The Untold Story of America’s Unknown Soldier and WWI’s Most Decorated Heroes Who Brought Him Home. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018. 360pp. Cloth, $27.
Patrick O’Donnell, author of the critically acclaimed Washington’s Immortals, and several other military history titles, presents a specialized history of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War who rests in Arlington National Cemetery. He includes not only the history of the selection and burial of the Unknown, but also follows the men who would carry him to his final rest as they fought in the Great War.
O’Donnell does not set out to tell the history of the Great War. Instead he writes about how those men who would become the body bearers for the Unknown experienced the war. While he does give a larger picture of several battles at land and at sea, he places them within the context of his work. He describes the involvement of the United States and how the servicemen were integrated into the fighting in a war in Europe that had already wiped out generations of European men four years before the Americans arrived to fight.
O’Donnell also introduces several other American fighting men other than those that served as body bearers. These are the men who would lead the attacks on enemy trenches and ultimately lead breakthrough attacks that would result in Allied victory in November 1918. These men are integral to the story of body bearers for it was their dogged leadership that ended the war.
The story of the selection and interment of the World War I Unknown has been told in many other volumes, but O’Donnell goes a step further and gives details regarding the actual selection as well as the duties of the Quartermaster branch as they planned for the unknown candidates to be exhumed and their efforts to ensure complete anonymity.
While this book is not a history of the First World War, it is not it’s intended purpose. Instead it simply follows eight men through the horrors of war. It is their actions that ultimately resulted in them receiving the highest honor from their superiors: to bring home a fallen comrade that gave not only his life for his country, but also his identity. The true supreme sacrifice.
by Kevin V. Welker
SHGTUS Vice-President and Membership Committee Chair
by Gavin McILvenna (1997-98), SHGTUS President
It been six months since I became the President, and it’s been even faster paced that I imagined it would be. I set many goals for 2017 back in January for the Board of Directors (BoD), and you will soon get a brief update on where we stand and what we need to do to complete those goals. I hope that you have been getting more of an information flow from the BoD, the projects we are working on, and the daily operations of the Society. My phone and email is always available to any member, so keep reaching out to me with your questions, concerns, and ideas.
I was shocked to receive the news that Neale Cosby had passed away, and for many days at a loss for words as I tried to comprehend the immense loss. I returned to Virginia and represented the Society, but more importantly to be with the family during this difficult time. Dot, Cam, Scott, and the entire Cosby family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from his brother and sister Tomb Guards. While there I learned even more about a man who inspired, mentored, and motivated me.
Neale faithfully served this nation for 30 years in uniform, and 20 more with the Institute for Defense Analyses. Neale didn’t have an “I love me wall” and kept those many mementoes of his service in an Army issue wooden foot locker. It was only after the memorial service that I learned his call sign on his second tour in Vietnam in 1971 as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division: “Bald Eagle”. If I had known this years ago…
While I was back in Washington DC for Neale’s memorial service, I had the opportunity to be present for the last walk of SSG Dallas Kempo (2015-17). While there I spoke with COL Jason Garkey, the Regimental Commander (RCO), and he mentioned that he is working within the regiment to ensure that its unique histories and traditions are passed on to the newest member. Growing up in the Airborne Corps of the Army, I found that the unit’s traditions I was assigned to have endured since 1940, and are passed down with vigor to the youngest paratrooper. Keeping traditions alive helps younger Soldiers understand the grander meaning of the regiment that they serve in.
My personal regiment is the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment and I still remember learning about the battles, deeds, and traditions including learning how to describe our unit crest down to every detail. How many of you can say the same about The Old Guard regiment? No matter how long you were a Tomb Guard, at one point you were assigned to a company within the Regiment before volunteering for the TUS. Whether you served in another unit in the Army or not, this is your regiment. While my home regiment does not have an association like The Old Guard Association (TOGA) or the Society, I will forever follow and honor its traditions. Having said that, I do feel a strong sense of unity with The Old Guard, and I think we can help the RCO in restoring and reviving the history and individual traditions of the companies that make this unit so great.
The RCO is planning two special events in 2018 and is reaching out to ensure that Tomb Guards of all generations will have the opportunity to once again stand with our Regiment. In April 2018, the Regiment will re-enact an important part of our regimental history during the 70th Anniversary of the activation ceremony at the United States Capitol. Later in the year will be a formal Regimental Ball open to all generations. Knowing that the RCO doesn’t miss any details, the Regimental Ball will be over the top, and the place to be before our Reunion in November. More information will be coming down from the RCO and TOGA, and I hope to see you at both.
Many thanks to everybody who stepped up to help remember our fallen brothers over the past quarter, and to the Associate and family members who are taking a more active role in the Society. Thank you!
As always, keep safe and try to link up with a Tomb Guard in your area for a coffee, beer, or a picture sometime!
“With heavy heart, I want to let you know that we lost a good soldier last night. He fought hard to the end.”
With these words, a dutiful and loving son announced the death of our Neale Cosby (1958-60) who passed away on June 4th, 2017, and with him part of our history in the Society as well.
You will read many expressions of love, respect and gratitude by his family, the hundreds he served with, mentored and extended his friendship. Each will speak to those qualities that inspired them, or helped them in meeting life’s challenges, their work or time of need; these qualities were uniquely Neale’s. Their comments will evidence the many interests he applied himself to. They will trumpet his profound love for his family, and for his Country. I’d like to share the comments I received from three Tomb Guards.
Meredith Smith (1958), Society co-founder remembers:
“I loved the man as role model, leader, teacher and friend as well as my officer in command. He was never off duty in his expectations whether loving father and husband or just best in his class as a fine human being. Never once did he raise his voice to achieve his goal. I would follow him without question knowing he would be right there when needed. He was best of his class. How lucky were to have this man in our lives. God Bless Neale Cosby.”
Past President Jim Cardamon (1957-58) commented upon hearing the news that:
“We lost a hero last night. Heaven gained one. What he has done for us will never be completely known. That is how he was. An American soldier died last night. I respected and loved the man.”
Gavin McILvenna (1997-98), co-founder and current President remembers:
“One of the four original founding fathers of the Society, he was the primary driving force behind the formation and incorporation of the Society in 1999, and served as our first Society President. Neale was constantly looking to make the Society not only relevant to the Tomb Guard mission and a continuation of our service to the Unknown Soldiers, but a platform to educate the world about both.”
Neale showered his love upon many things; large and small, and many people; the well-known and those all but forgotten. He never worked in half measures and always with the heart of a Tomb Guard. He embodied the very soul of the Tomb Guard’s mission and it informed every decision he made, every kindness he extended and every service he rendered. He was the embodiment of Duty, Honor and Country. He was a leader that led by precept and example. I know this because he was my friend, my mentor and my brother Tomb Guard. I had the honor and privilege to share in part of his journey and dare say a partner in many initiatives in service to our Country and the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As I work my way through Neale’s death, trying to deal with the emptiness, many remembrances and thoughts rush to compete with each other. During those first few moments and hours, I thought of historical references that mark the deaths of great leaders and loved friends: I remembered a phrase “who will draw the bow now?” and “Captain my Captain”. I fixed upon an expression of grief that said “we cannot mourn them according to their merit, for our mourning will be never ending”. And finally, General Patton’s expression that Neale and I reviewed and analyzed many times as we prepared for the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. General Patton advised us that we should not mourn, but rather celebrate and be glad that we had such men. I am not there yet, but I will say this, I will not allow death to control my thoughts of Neale. I choose to remember and to be inspired by how he lived. And when the crying is done, I will celebrate his life, his love for our country, and our service to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the “electric cord” that connects us in life and in death.
I met Neale many years ago, shortly after the very first reunion of the Tomb Guard, sponsored by the Old Guard. He called me at my office, where I was serving as the General Counsel, at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. He came in on my private line. He identified himself and sought confirmation that I was a former Tomb Guard. Funny, the way he asked it, I promptly responded, “Yes sir”. From the very moment of that introduction, I knew I was talking to someone special. He invited me to have lunch. As many of you know and I was to learn, an invitation to lunch from Neale Cosby, really meant “Fall In! We have work to do”. Little did I know that this man and work we had to do would be such a large part of my life and provide me with some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
We had that lunch, we discussed our service at the Tomb. Within minutes, I knew that he knew me in ways that only fellow Tomb Guards knew me when I was there. And it felt good. Another Tomb Guard!!!!! He then put it to me. “We had to form and organization of Tomb Guards”. As much as I supported the idea, I knew that my plate was very full. I declined. He said yes, he understood, “you have a job”. I still declined, even though I knew that I was already recruited. I kind of surrendered, with a “I can’t, do it, but I will try.” His final and parting shot to me was, “if not us then who and if not now, when. Everybody else was too old.” My rejoinder was “don’t do that to me”, and with that began my journey with Neale. He said he knew just the right guy to join us: a Tomb Guard’s Tomb Guard, smart, very successful and knew his way around complex organizations and the ways of Washington, DC whose name was Meredith Smith. Later, I suggested that I found the right guy: a young, dedicated, hard worker, smart, understood the mission and clearly loved being a Tomb Guard named Gavin McIlvenna.
And so began the hours and the days that led into months of our working together after work in my
office and the forming of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I will not go
into the details of that initiative, that can be found elsewhere. I will say that between the four of us,
no rock was left unturned in determining the who, what, where or why. It was intense, dramatic and
exhilarating to work with such fierce Tomb Guards.
And no one owns the work like a Tomb Guard!!!! My secretary would always check with me
afterwards, and asked if we were alright. She would exclaim that she never heard such intensity
and caring for anything. What was to follow was to shape the rest of my life. We formed the Society, we found more Tomb Guards, together we helped wounded warriors, we shaped an educational program, provided support to the current Tomb Guards, and supported former Tomb Guards as they reconnected with their service at the Tomb, and their families in times of grief.
Together, we launched a campaign to ensure that the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was appropriately commemorated. These are the moments that I will always remember Neale for. And in between these initiatives, I re- live the hundreds of meetings with the Regimental Commanders, the then serving Tomb Guard, Congressional staffers, Department of Defense officials, MDW Commanders, Arlington National Cemetery Officials, just to name a few. I can safely say that one of the more seminal moments occurred when we travelled to Arlington National Cemetery to view the casket of the last remaining World War I veteran. As we stood there, just the two of us, in the catacombs of the ANC Amphitheatre, we each realized, with a “fist to the solar plexus” like blow that there were no more of these veterans of the great war; that in our time at the Tomb, we saw them in the tens of thousands; a sea of white uniforms and their colors. That it was up to us, The Society, to make sure that America would continue to fulfill its sacred duty to never forget or forsake. The mantel was passed and we knew our duty. I cannot fully express the intensity of that moment.
There are many expressions of love and respect for Neale and his work. I commend to you the eulogies of his sons Scott and Cam read at the memorial service. I will close with a quote that I want to share with Neale:
“But only the Tomb’s in night time Solitude whisper Cosby is gone”
On January 18, the Society took time to remember Congressman Hamilton Fish III who passed away on this date in 1991. Congressman Fish III was a veteran of World War I (Captain, 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters”) and a recipient of the Silver Star and French Croix de Guerre.
More importantly to the Society, Congressman Fish III introduced legislation which was to be among his most enduring and patriotic acts as a member of Congress. It was Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress (1920) which provided for the return to the United States the remains of an unknown American Soldier killed in France during World War I and for interment of his remains in a hallowed tomb to be constructed outside the Memorial Amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington.
SHGTUS Member and former 1st Relief Sentinel Clifford Redden (1970-71) and his wife made the trip from his home in Flushing, NY to the Saint Philip’s Church Cemetery in Garrison, NY. Cliff represented the Society as he paid our respects to Congressman Fish III by visiting his grave and laying a yellow rose of remembrance.
From the Education Committee:
One of the many programs that the SHGTUS provides is 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 2017 SHGTUS Scholarship recipients are:
Adam Dickmyer Memorial Scholarship
Joshua Wesnidge (2012-14)
Neale Cosby Scholarship
Madeleine Richardson (Niece of Dan Mancuso, 1966-1968)
SHGTUS Freedom Scholarship
Evan Koch (Grandson of George J. Koch, Sr., 1941)
Thank you to all who applied, and congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards.
Education Committee Chair
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.