The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Turns 20

November 1, 2019 | Society Spotlight, Special Report

Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

1999

We formed a Society that provided the infrastructure needed for Tomb Guards, past and present, to continue serving the mission as Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after leaving The Old Guard, and to take an active role in helping our fellow Americans honor our sacred duty to never, ever forget or forsake those that have served and sacrificed in times of war or armed conflict.

We developed an Educational Program that encourages civic and patriotic organizations, schools and everyday citizens within our communities to reach out and request, free of charge, a former Tomb Guard to speak about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Sentinel’s that stand the eternal vigil.

“The Tomb is that one place where we say to those Americans who have died, and to those who serve today and who will serve in the future, “We will not ever forsake you. We will never forget you.” – Dr. John Hamre, Deputy Secretary of Defense, November 1999

We also created as special Bereavement Committee to provide immediate assistance to families upon the death of a Tomb Guard, regardless of location. Society members have attended over 30 burials while providing personalized Society memorial cards and metal grave markers in the form of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Honor Guard Identification Badge.

2000

Since our inception, we have provided direct support to the current Tomb Guard Platoon by subsidizing sterling silver Tomb Guard Identification Badges to Sentinels upon their being officially awarded the badge by the US Army. We also provide supplement drinks to help deal with the extreme heat while on duty; various clothing, and mentoring / networking opportunities with various professionals in the government and private sector.

2001

We provided technical, financial and administrative support in the development and creation of a monument on Fort Myer that was completed in 2018 and is dedicated to the Soldiers of the Old Guard.

2002

We established three education scholarship programs for members of the Society, Tomb Guards, and their families and children with over 24 scholarships awarded as of 2018.

2003

We gave back to our wounded brothers and sisters in arms returning from recent armed conflict and wars by providing special clothing requested by the Walter Reed Military Hospital and donating to the Fisher House.

2004

We sponsored, produced and marketed the award-winning documentary about the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier “Voices from the Tomb.”

2009

We provided technical and factual support for the Special Jury Award, Remi Awards, WorldFest Houston 2009 winning documentary

“Kennedy’s Cadets” about the Irish honor guard that participated in the burial service of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery.

2012

Members of the Society provided technical, and factual support for winner of the Van Gogh Award in the 2017 Amsterdam Film Festival “The Unknowns.”

2013

We began the planning for Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (1921-2021), looking once again to find a means to include all Americans and bring communities together.

2015

We re-instituted the National Salute on November 11 at 11:00 AM, which was first conducted during the burial of the World War I Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. Since this date numerous communities, churches, fire stations and civic and patriotic organizations have included the ringing of bells (21 times) and a moment of silence into their Veterans Day programs.

We developed an educational tool kit containing materials that will help Americans reunite with those who have served and sacrificed in times of war or armed conflict. This tool kit is intended to help children learn more about the Unknown Soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery and all those who have served and sacrificed. The kit informs the groups before they visit or lay a wreath in Arlington, and then upon returning to their schools and communities, to help them share their experiences in Arlington and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

2017

With the intent of connecting the past, present, and future, we partnered with the Boy Scouts of America to repair the neglected gravesite of Col. Gassaway Watkins, a hero of the American Revolution. In conjunction with that project we created a memorial wreath laying ceremony and received recognition by the Governor of the State of Maryland with a declaration. The Boy Scouts of America have since adopted this site and have initiated several Eagle Scout Projects which are being recognized by the Regional Council as a pilot project that should be advanced and emulated by other Scout troops elsewhere in the region.

We also supported the community of Ludington, Michigan as they commemorated the dedication of the Veteran’s Memorial in Stearns Park, and unveiled the bust of Hospital Corpsman First Class William Charrette, the Medal of Honor Recipient who selected the World War II Unknown Soldier.

In 1921, Chief Plenty Coups, of the Crow Tribe of Indians, laid his war bonnet and coups stick upon the grave of the World War I Unknown Soldier. In planning for the Centennial in 2021 we have initiated efforts to ensure the inclusion of the Crow Tribe of Indians. As a result, members of the Society were honored to lay a wreath at Chief Plenty Coup’s grave on the Day of Honor in 2017.

2018

We collaborated with the Heartland Men’s Chorus of Kansas City on their original choral work titled “We, the Unknown” .

We joined the community of Klickitat County in Washington State to plan a commemoration ceremony and National Salute on the 100th Anniversary of Armistice at the Stonehenge War Memorial.

We collaborated with the World War I Centennial Commission, and their partners, to bring our grass-roots program, the National Salute, to a larger audience across the US and in foreign lands as we look toward November 2021 with the “Bells of Peace” program.

We formalized the partnership with Arlington National Cemetery, and other governmental and non-profit organizations, to assist with the planning of the national commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in 2021.

2019

We are continuing to help shape the national commemoration of the Centennial of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (1921-2021) with Arlington National Cemetery and the Military District of Washington.

We have also formed new bonds with key partners in the history of the Unknown Soldiers including:

  • • Independence Seaport Museum
  • • Naval History and Heritage Command
  • • United States Capitol Historical Society
  • • The Embassies of the Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom
  • • American Legion Paris Post 1
  • • Daughters of the American Revolution

We developed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Never Forget Garden to allow all Americans to express their profound emotions of patriotism, remembrance and love through the unifying effect the language of flowers and trees offer. George Washington’s Mount Vernon became the first in the nation to embrace this initiative and begin planting a Never Forget Garden that could be enjoyed by visitors and staff alike.