Tomb Guard Identification Badge Ceremony Remarks
8 years ago
The following are remarks delivered by Neale Cosby on March 14, 2013 at Arlington National Cemetery upon the awarding of Tomb Guard Identification Badge #612 to PFC Jacob Davenport. Mr. Cosby is a former Tomb Guard, a Founder of the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the namesake of the Neale Cosby Scholarship.
Thank you Colonel Markert. I’m always honored to attend a Tomb Guard award ceremony.
I must say a word about Jacobs’s great uncle, SGT/Col Talmadge Gilley. SGT Gilley left the Tomb in the early 1958 and I arrived in late 1958. He was one of those soldiers, either as a sentinel or relief commander that other people looked up to. He always had his stuff together. Indeed, he was a great soldier and a great citizen.
Now, back to PFC Davenport. Jacob, your brigade commander has just entered you into a unique military society – The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Thanks to him you are now a marked man – for the rest of your life on earth and even after in death. Let me explain.
First, as long as you wear that Army uniform you will wear that badge  (point to his badge) that Colonel Markert pinned on your right breast pocket today. Other soldiers will immediately recognize and respect you. They will know the true meaning of that prestige award. You do not need to brag. They will say, congratulations. You will answer with a humble, thank you.
Second, after you leave the Army you will still be marked. You will wear on your civilian clothing for the rest of your life the miniature badge or Tomb Guard lapel pin, which I’m wearing today. Most civilians will not recognize the badge. They will point at the badge and asked, what is that? With great pride, you will explain how you were a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where you continuously rendered this nation’s highest honors to the American Unknowns and Missing Soldiers at this nation’s highest military shrine in Arlington National Cemetery. They will light up and say, I know that place and many will say, I have been there. All will, thank you with sincere emphasis.
Third, and finally, after you die, your next-of-kin will mount this Tomb Guard medallion on your tombstone. Your family and friends – generation after generation after generation – forever – in perpetuity, will visit your gravesite and see your accomplishment that started – right here – this day by Colonel Markert.
So, that is what I mean by you being a marked man in life and in death. You will forever be known as a Tomb Guard.
Image Attributed to Rex Looney.
A Tomb Guard award ceremony is when the Old Guard regimental commander awards the Tomb Guard Identification Badge to an individual who has successfully completed several months of rigorous training at the Tomb.
The Society provides the surviving family of deceased Tomb Guards a Tomb Guard Idenification Badge medallion. The medallion is a replica of the Tomb Guard Identification Badge designed to adorn the burial headstone or marker.
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Here is an article written by Denise Doring VanBuren, President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution Honoring the Battlefields of France and the Centennial of Americas Unknown Soldier...
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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.