Avatar for Lloyd N. (Neale) Cosby

“Fifty plus years ago, I was the platoon leader of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. One day I was standing on the plaza inspecting a guard change when a little old lady asked me the usual set of questions.

” ‘Are there guards here at night?’ Answer: yes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And it has been so since 1936. Every second of every minute, of every day – rain, shine, snow, sleet, a guard is here day and night.

“Then she asked how are the guards selected? I cited high character requirements for duty at the Tomb. In short, I told her that they must be good soldiers and good citizens.

“Following the guard change, she came back with more questions. She was persistent. I can still see her face today. She asked: ‘Do the guards like the duty here?’ I said, ‘Yes. They feel it is an honor to continuously render, in their own small soldierly way, this nation’s highest honors to the Unknown Soldier.’

“She said ‘What do you mean?’ I explained that the highest honor that this country renders to anyone is a 21-gun salute. The President gets a 21-gun salute. And then I told her that this is what this lone sentinel is doing, continuously. Then I pointed to the sentinel on the mat. In a whisper, I counted 21 seconds as he paused at each facing movement — one thousand one, one thousand two and so on. I counted the steps as he crossed the mat from one side of the Tomb to the other, always keeping an eye on the Tomb and keeping his body between the Tomb and the weapon he carries. Thus rendering the highest honors with his 21-count, continuously.

“At the end, she began to cry and she said, ‘You may wonder why I’m asking these questions, but you see, I have a personal interest here. This is the only place I have to pay my respects to my son who did not return from the war.’

With that she departed leaving me touched for life and forever answering the question of WHY WE GUARD THE TOMB”

  • 1st Cav Division
  • 7th Infantry Division
  • 3rd Infantry Regiment
  • ROTC University of Iowa
  • MACV Vietnam Advisory
  • Naval War College
  • Infantry Branch OPO
  • 101st Airborne Division - Vietnam
  • Army Staff - Pentagon
  • Army War College
  • TRADOC - Fort Monroe
  • Army Research Insitute
  • Airborne Wings
  • Ranger Tab
  • Legion of Merit (2)
  • Expert Infantryman Badge
  • Combat Infantryman Badge
  • Tomb Guard Identification Badge