November 1, 2003 at 9:16 am #9620
The Third Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer has the responsibility for providing ceremonial units
and honor guards for state occasions, White House social functions, public celebrations and interments atArlington National Cemetery….and standing a very formal sentry watch at the
Tombs of the Unknowns. The public is familiar with the precision of what is called “walking post” at the Tombs. There are roped off galleries where visitors can form to observe the troopers and their measured step and almost mechanical silent rifle shoulder changes. They are relieved every
hour in a very formal drill that has to be seen to believe. Some people think that when the Cemetery is closed to the public in the evening in the evening that this show stops. First, to the men who who are dedicated to this work…it is not a show…it is a “charge of honor”. The formality and precision continues uninterrupted all night. During the nighttime, the drill of relief and the measured step of the on duty sentry remain unchanged from the daylight hours. To these men…these special men, the continuity of this post is the key to the honor and respect shown to these honored dead, symbolic of all American unaccounted for American combat dead. The
steady rhythmic step in rain, sleet, snow, hail, hot, cold…bitter cold…uninterrupted…uninterrupted is the important part of the honor shown.
Last night, while you were sleeping, the teeth of hurricane Isabel came through this area and tore hell out of everything… We have thousands of trees down…power outages…traffic signals out…roads filled with down limbs and “gear adrift” debris…We have flooding…and the place looks like it has been the impact area of an off shore bombardment. The Regimental Commander of the U.S. Third Infantry sent word to the nighttime Sentry Detail to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds, to ensure their personal safety. [As reported by the AP .the soldiers
who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns were given for the first time in history permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter.
“They told us that. But that’s not what’s going to happen,” said Sgt. Christopher Holmes,
standing vigil on overnight duty. ” That’s never an option for us. It went in one ear and right
out the other.”.
During winds that turned over vehicles and turned debris into projectiles…the measured step continued. One fellow said “I’ve got buddies getting shot at in Iraq who would kick my butt if
word got to them that we let them down…I sure as hell have no intention of spending my Army career being known as the goddam idiot who couldn’t stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty.”
Then he said something in response to a female reporter’s question regarding silly purposeless
personal risk….”I wouldn’t expect you to understand. it’s an enlisted man’s thing.” God Bless
the rascal…In a time in our nation’s history when spin and total bull**** seems to have become the accepted coin-of-the-realm, there beat hearts…the enlisted hearts we all knew and were so damn proud to be a part of…that fully understand that devotion to duty is not a part time occupation. While we slept, we were represented by some damn fine men who fully understood their post orders and proudly went about their assigned responsibilities unseen, unrecognized and in
the finest tradition of the American Enlisted Man. Folks, there’s hope….The gene that
George S. Patton…Arliegh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us…survives. Now, go have another
cup to pop rivet your eyelids I’ve got to go to work.
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