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.
Adam L. Dickmyer was born on February 2, 1984 in York, Pennsylvania. He attended Mineral Springs Elementary and Middle Schools before graduating from Carver High School in 2002, where he participated in Reserved Officers’ Training Corps. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army as an Infantryman in 2003. Upon completion of basic training he attended the US Army Airborne school before his first assignment with the 3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
In April 2004, he was assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) as 2nd Relief Commander, and eventually was given the responsibilities as the Assistant Sergeant of the Guard. He also served as the official ‘Voice of the Old Guard’ in audio guided tours of Arlington Cemetery. He served with distinction and was promoted to Staff Sergeant, and awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) # 528, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.
Even though he admitted to his family that the duty took a physical toll on his knees, ankles, and feet he felt tremendous pride in service as a Sentinel. In his own words taken from the book “On Hallowed Ground” by Robert Poole, SSG Dickmyer said, “We take it one step further because we are so visible. Thousands of people see us every day – more come here than go to the Jefferson Memorial – so we want to make the best possible impression. And we want the guys who sacrificed everything to know that they are still remembered, that someone still cares. That’s why we do it.”
Former Sentinel Nathan Luman (2003-05), remembers “He always showed respect and carried himself like a Tomb Guard from day one. We all like to tell each other how hard it was back in our time as a new man with each new generation not having it nearly as tough as the previous generation… Dickmyer was one of the guys who would’ve made it no matter when he tried out. I could tell that about him.”
In September of 2007, SSG Dickmyer was re-assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, Echo Company where he served as the Casket Team Leader for the Joint Services State Funeral Team for two years. He was personally selected to be the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) and in August 2009 led the Joint Services State Funeral Casket Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge for the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy.
SSG Dickmyer sought to develop his leadership skills and had the desire to serve oversees in combat so that he could be the best possible leader to the Soldiers serving under his direction. With this in mind, in 2009 SSG Dickmyer was assigned to the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Hi unit deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with CJTF-101 within months of his arriving at Fort Campbell, and was given the daunting task of working in the volatile Afghan provinces adjacent to the Federally Administered Tribal Area of western Pakistan.
In an interview after his death, Captain David Forsha who was the A Company Commander, attested to SSG Dickmyer’s leadership abilities remembering: “By the time we deployed, I knew SSG Dickmyer was fully capable of leading his squad in combat. Within a few weeks, I would come to realize he was ready to lead a platoon. In June, SSG Dickmyer was selected to serve as the Platoon Sergeant for 3rd Platoon, and he excelled in one of the most coveted positions a Non-Commissioned Officer can hold.”
On October 28, 2010 SSG Adam Dickmyer, while acting as Platoon Sergeant, was killed in action near Kandahar, Afghanistan during a dismounted patrol by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). SSG Dickmyer was his platoon to the Arghandab River, a feat no unit had accomplished. He died while leading his men into this important, but uncharted terrain. SSG Dickmyer became the third Tomb Guard in history to be killed in action.
Staff Sergeant Dickmyer’s award and decorations include: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (6 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO International Security Assistance Force Medal, Army Superior Unit Award, , Combat Infantryman’s Badge , Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and the German Troop Proficiency Badge (Gold).
SSG Dickmyer was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, with many of the Soldiers he trained and led carrying him to his final rest.
Former Tomb Guard Adam Newman (2005-06) thinks of his brother Tomb Guard and says, “I miss you bud. I wear your bracelet daily. Thanks for giving me a chance, thanks for believing in me. I still work every day to live the standards you taught me.”
Private First Class Michael Young, who served with SSG Dickmyer in Afghanistan, shared his memories during the memorial service in Afghanistan, “I looked up to SSG Dickmyer like a brother. He was more than I could dream of as a role model– always pushing me mentally, physically, personally, and professionally. SSG Dickmyer is 95% of the reason I’m here and successful today. In my worst times, when I was just ready to leave the platoon and the Army, he spent countless hours of his time, whether he had the time or not, to talk sense to me and get me to stay.”
Former Tomb Guard Chase Neely (2006-09) remembers “You were a good leader and a good friend. You are missed by everyone. Thank you for seeing my potential and encouraging me to push forward.”
SSG Dickmyer is buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Video of SSG Dickmyer conducing the Changing of the Guard:
Legacy Member Mindy Dickmyer shares her thoughts on the anniversary of her husband’s death at: http://otherwar.com/video-portrait-mindy-dickmyer/
William Richard Spates, Jr. was born September 8, 1939, in Washington, DC to a family with a long history of service to the United States. An avid history buff, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1957. Upon completion of basic training he went to Airborne School at Ft. Campbell, KY, prior to his assignment to 48th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division in Germany, in August 1959.
His brother James, who also went into the US Army and retired after 23 years, remembers, “We were very close, what you call Irish twins, as he was only 10 and a-half months older. He had three brothers and all four were in the Army, and our Dad was a World War II Marine.'”
In September 1963, he was assigned to 1st Battalion (Reinforced), 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). In 1964, he was assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) as 1st Relief Commander. He served with distinction and was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal (Second Award) and the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) # 33, which is the second least awarded badge in the US Army.
Former Sentinel Paul Frinstahl (1965-67) remembers that, “As a new guy I often wondered what I was doing there. To myself I would say ‘these guys are beyond any goal I might set…they are good!’. When I first saw SSG Spates I considered him the “Ideal Guard.” He had the look and the walk and the skills that made him a leader and example for all those at the Tomb…especially the new guys.”
Former Sentinel Richard Azzaro (1963-65), who was acting 2nd Relief Commander, remembers “When Bill came down he asked me to teach him the inspection. We worked very hard on this and I shared with him all that I knew. That came very easily because he was as intense as I was and he never let up. He was a quick study. He was new, but very much wanted to be at the Tomb and wanted to be among the best. He was totally committed to the Army and the Tomb Guard.”
Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remember that “He had a great sense of humor. He used to tease SOG Eldredge about putting their “steel pots” on and sitting around a campfire telling war stories. SSG Spates knew SOG Eldredge was a combat vet and POW in Korea.”
Former Sentinel James Woods (1964-65) remembers his Relief Commander as “A fun loving guy, a regular military person. But he had a great sense of humor, and was supportive of everything we did.”
Former Sentinel Raymond Homyk Sr. (1963-65) remembers that, “SSG Spates was my relief commander, and he assigned SP4 Benny Higdon as my trainer, along with himself. There was not a stricter trainer, or more knowledgeable pair, that knew the history of those interned in Arlington National Cemetery and all the history…except for the Sergeant of the Guard Allen Eldredge, at that time. If I wasn’t standing back against the wall or walking hours on the mat in the catacombs, or doing the manual of arms over and over (which had to be perfect), they kept me studying the facts of the cemetery. Because they were the best of the best, they put me on the path to be my best.”
SSG Spates requested an assignment in Vietnam, and was stationed with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Advisors as a Light Weapons Infantry Specialist. Upon arrival to Vietnam in May 1965, he was detailed to the 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion in Pleiku, Vietnam.
Former Sentinel Richard Azzaro (1963-65) remembers, “Bill had orders to Viet Nam just as I was leaving the Army. I remember vividly our talking about his leaving in the Tomb Guard quarters (on North Post) and how I cautioned him to take care. We were very solemn in our parting.”
Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers that, “He as a happy, positive guy. He had requested reassignment to Viet Nam and was excited by the prospect of combat. I’ve always felt he had a true Warrior’s heart.”
On October 25, 1965 at the age of 26, SSG William Spates was killed in action defending the base and its occupants during a brutal attack. The base was overrun with enemy, who had been practicing for the assault for over a year, and SSG Spates was killed in a foxhole by a direct mortar strike. SSG Spates became the first Tomb Guard to be killed in action.
Staff Sergeant Spate’s award and decorations include: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam (RVN) Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Date Palm Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and Vietnam Ranger Badge.
Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers hearing the news, “I was in the catacombs, on duty. We were all stunned for a bit, but then we went into Tomb Guard gear and immediately set to planning out what we needed to do for the funeral & family.”
Arrangements were made for his funeral, and subsequent burial in Arlington National Cemetery. SSG Spates had requested that if he were killed in action, he wanted to buried close the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Army honored this request.
Former Sentinel Robert Woodruff (1964-65), a pall bearer, remembers helping the Sergeant of the Guard pin the Tomb Guard Identification Badge on SSG Spates at the funeral home prior to the viewing of his body: “It was very unsettling. I noticed one thing at the time and said something to SOG Eldredge, that he had no shoes on, but black socks with a ID tag around his big toe. We pinned the badge on his chest, and it was the first and last time I ever saw SOG Allen get emotional. SOG Eldredge, in his usual stern manner, cautioned him ‘to pin it on straight’ ”.
Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers that the Sergeant of the Guard “Decided who would be the pall bearers. Back in those days the platoon was smaller, and each relief had no more than 5 on a relief. Including the Sergeant of the Guard, we were considered fully staffed at 16 soldiers.”
SSG Spates was laid to rest in Section 27, close the Tomb and the Unknown Soldiers he stood watch over. Former Sentinel Charles Shacochis (1965-67) remembers, “First Relief was on duty that day so the funeral was handled by 2nd and 3rd Reliefs. I was part of the pall bearer team, which was led by Staff Sergeant Morris Moore. My one vivid memory was of Sergeant Moore, as he and SSG Spates had been very close. We realized how close when the mourning SSG Moore signaled to begin folding the flag DURING, rather than after, Taps. We made it looked planned, though, by completing the fold right at the last note.”
Former Sentinel Raymond Homyk Sr. (1963-65) remembers, “I am humbled to have known him. To this day I believe I am who I am, because of SSG Spates and SOG Eldrege”
SSG Spate’s strong reputation as a leader, have influenced younger generations of Tomb Guards, even though they never met him. Former Assistant Sergeant of the Guard Kevin Welker (1997-2001) mentioned, “I have always prided myself on being the Relief Commander of First Relief based on his position as the same. Many times I visited his resting place in ANC. In a gesture of respect I placed roses on his grave after my final walk.”
Former Sentinel John Gouldin (1984-85) remembers as that Sentinel’s from the eighties that “An on-going tradition was to take a handful of flowers from the many wreathes lined up just off the plaza, make a bouquet and take it down to his grave. I remember after many longs hours on duty to happily walk the flowers through the dewy grass and say “good morning” to SSG Spates”.
SSG Spates’s name can be found on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 2E, Row 134.
Written by Gavin McIlvenna, SHGTUS Vice President
Please make note that if you are an annual member and you did not select the auto payment option via PayPal, you will receive a reminder approximately one month prior to your due date.
If for any reason your due date passes without payment received, you will be removed from the active membership roster, but your name will be archived for easy retrieval should you decide to join the Society again. Once you pay the current dues, your membership will be reactivated.
We certainly understand that life goes on and sometimes things fall to the wayside. Rest assured that we will not forget you!
If you have any questions regarding membership, feel free to contact me by e-mail at