William Wanner West
Tomb PositionCommander of the Relief
Highest Military RankStaff Sergeant
Tomb DatesAug 1962 - Dec 1962
Military DatesJun 1959 - Apr 1965
Home City / StateKansas City, MO
William Wanner West (Bill) began his journey on Earth in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 6, 1941, the son of Frank and Mildred (Wanner) West. His parents welcomed him, as did his older brother, David. As time passed, the family grew to include six children – four boys and two girls.
The West family put down roots in Ponca City, Oklahoma, where Bill graduated from high school in 1959 and entered the U. S. Army on June 24, 1959. His original posting was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, serving as a member of the 101st Airborne through April 19, 1962.
On April 20, 1962, Bill re-enlisted and had the honor of serving at Fort Myer, Arlington, Virginia, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard". Serving the U.S. since 1784, The Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military still in service. Initially, Bill served as a member of military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery.
Bill was extremely proud to have then served as Commander of the Relief, 3rd Relief, the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. From that assignment, he was posted to Cameron Station until SSgt. William W. West was discharged on April 19, 1965.
The Tomb Platoon is comprised of three squads, or "reliefs" -- 1st, 2nd and 3rd Reliefs. The reliefs are organized based on height, so that the Tomb Guards are similar in size during the Changing of the Guard.
The Tomb Guard Identification Badge was designed in 1956 and first issued to members of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on February 7, 1958. The badge was first issued only as a temporary wear item, meaning the soldiers could only wear the badge during their tenure as members of the Honor Guard. Upon leaving the duty, the badge was returned and reissued to incoming soldiers. In 1963, regulations were changed to allow the badge to be worn as a permanent part of the military uniform after the soldier's completion of duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Those who had served previous to 1963 could make application for a permanent award of The Badge.
In the true sense of all who serve at the Tomb, doing so not for personal recognition but as an act of honor, Bill always said he didn’t need a Badge, he knew he served and that was all that mattered. At the encouragement of family, he finally made application for a permanent Badge award. Bill’s orders came through on June 20, 2016.
William Wanner West died April 29, 2016, in Beaumont, and his final resting place is in Morton Cemetery, Richmond, TX, alongside his wife, Carolyn Holt West.
Bill was predeceased by his parents, Frank and Mildred, and brothers David and Tom. He is survived by his son, David Vincent West and family, Bronson, Iowa; daughter and son-in-law Sherri and Bob Stevens, Bakersfield, CA; brother and wife, Terry and Sherre West, Stephenville, TX; sister and husband, Ed and Nancy Chesson, Hemphill, TX and sister Linda West, Tulsa, OK.
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Units & Campaigns101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)
Awards & DecorationsArmy Service Ribbon
Tomb Guard Identification Badge
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Did you know?
What happened to the soldier that was in the Tomb from the Vietnam War?
The remains of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. (Further Background) (News Article from the Department of Defense)