The Last Walk
8 years ago
On October 2, 2015 the first double Last Walk Ceremony in memory was held in the Memorial Display Room in Arlington National Cemetery. Just hours prior to this Sergeant Patrick Leamy and Sergeant First Class John Wirth, the ASOG and SOG respectively, enjoyed their final moments with the Unknown Soldiers. SSG Blackmore first posted SGT Leamy, who relieved SPC Redmond on the mat.
The wind and rain from the leading edges of Hurricane Joaquin began to cascade onto the plaza as SGT Leamy walked the man with his family and Tomb Guard brothers watching. He later said the "I found it sad that I would never be with the Unknowns like this again." After 30 minutes SSG Hickman, assuming the role of both ASOG and acting SOG, returned to post SFC Wirth and relieve SGT Leamy for the last time. With his parents watching, SGT Leamy then paid his final respects to the Unknown Soldiers that had stood watch over for the past 34 months.
SFC Wirth then resumed his post on the mat. The cold had joined the wind and rain, and you could see SFC Wirth's breath as he stood his final watch. What you couldn't see is how he felt with the platoon watching saying, "I always get nervous when I'm on the mat in front of them". While SOGs usually don't walk the mat SFC Wirth felt it was important to set the example as a leader, and walked whenever the platoon was short on man-power.
On October 5th, 2015 Sergeant Seth Callaway also said goodbye to the Unknown Soldiers with the platoon and family in attendance. Watching the relief prepare for his last walk was akin to watching a tornado tear through a stand of trees.
With SPC Redmond coming off the mat, SSG Carney conducted a "Silent Guard Change" and posted SGT Callaway for the last time. The rain had cleared up from the weekend, and it was beautiful crisp morning. It was very impressive to hear the deafening silence, broken only the sharp heel clicks, during the guard change. Following his last walk, SGT Callaway and his family spent a few precious moments in the Memorial Display room thanking everyone for their friendship and leadership during his tour.
SGT Callaway and family will be moving to his new assignment in Colorado.
On November 2nd, Corporal Johnathon Gatewood (2013-15) also conducted his last walk as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with his fellow Sentinel watching and family in attendance.
- Gavin McIlvenna, SHGTUS Vice President
Photos courtesy of Gavin McIlvenna and CPL Cody W. Torkelson, (TOG)
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Did you know?
Are the shoes specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet?
The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand with a straight back and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can "roll" on the outside of the build up walking down the mat. Done correctly, the hat and bayonet will appear to not "bob" up and down with each step. It gives a more formal, fluid and smooth look to the walk, rather than a "marching" appearance.
The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a "horseshoe" steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.
Then there is the "clicker". It is a shank of steel attached to the inside of the face of the heel build-up on each shoe. It allows the Sentinel to heel click during certain movements. A guard change is considered great when all the heel clicks fall together and sound as one click. The guard change is occasionally done in the "silent" mode (as a sign of devotion to the Unknowns) with no voice commands - every thing is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts.