The Last Walk
5 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)
The latest update from the Centennial Committee, including information on the released Centennial Tidbits #39-41, can be found...
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Did you know?
How long does the Sentinel hesitate after the facing movement to begin the return walk? Is the rifle carried on the same shoulder all the time?
The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the the Guard Change ceremony begins.