SHGTUS Reunion Highlights - 'Arlington Sons' Performance
6 years ago
There were many highlights from this past reunion. Perhaps the most unique was the performance of the musical piece, Arlington Sons, by David and Richard Pittsinger. David is a renowned Broadway star who commissioned the piece in 2011 to specifically perform with his son Richard, a soloist and graduate of New York’s Saint Thomas Choir School. The piece tells a very unique story, of a father bringing his son to Arlington Cemetery for the first time to observe the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It "illuminates a universal experience—the changing of the guard between generations—in a uniquely American context. It is believed to be the first-ever musical composition written for a real-life father and son.”
David’s motivation to commission a piece came from a desire to pay tribute to his late father, Richard M. Pittsinger who was a Tomb Guard in the 1950s. Composer Scott Eyerly, wrote the piece with this connection in mind. Observing the live performance, many Tomb Guards noted that Arlington Sons really told a multi generational story with David’s father Richard, the Tomb Guard, having an unseen but tangible presence.
The Society of the Honor Guard has a phrase, “soldiers never die until they are forgotten, Tomb Guards never forget”. Arlington Sons is the living embodiment of that idea and we salute the Pittsinger family for their moving tribute and thank them for sharing it with our members at our 2014 banquet! It was a once a lifetime performance and our organization thanks David and Richard for their commitment to paying tribute to the Unknowns and his father.
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The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) is able to provide our programs, events, assistance, scholarships, and services due to the generosity of its members, organizations, and individuals. SHGTUS does not receive institutional funding. Note: The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your contributions may be fully tax deductible.
Did you know?
How many Sentinels have been female?
There have been over 680 tomb guards awarded the badge since 1958 when we started counting. There are hundreds more from the year 1926 when the Army started guarding the Tomb. The 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) is the unit that has been given the duty of guarding the Tomb. It was given this sacred duty in 1948. The Old Guard was -- and still is -- considered a combat unit. As an Infantry unit, females were not permitted in the ranks for many years. It wasn't until 1994 that females were permitted to volunteer to become a Sentinel when the 289th Military Police Company was attached to the Old Guard. The MP branch is a combat support unit and includes females.
In 1996, SGT Heather Johnson became the first female to earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge. She volunteered for duty in June 1995 and earned her badge in 1996. However, SGT Johnson was not the only female Sentinel. Since then, there have been a total of five female Sentinels awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge:
SGT Danyell Wilson earned
her badge in 1997
SSG Tonya Bell received hers in 1998
SGT Ruth Hanks earned her badge in June 2015
SFC Chelsea Porterfield earned her badge in 2021
Several other units have since been attached to the Old Guard -- food service, transportation, medics, etc. -- so now females have an ever greater opportunity to become a Sentinel. Females must meet the same requirements as the male soldiers to be eligible to volunteer at the Tomb. the only difference is that females have a minimum height of 5'8" -- which is the same standard to be a member of the Old Guard.