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Men Who Guard Tomb of Unknown Soldier Share Memorial Day Message

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It’s one of the most coveted positions in the military: the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

It’s not just that it’s a position few will ever hold. It’s also what the tomb means.

“Many people think the ultimate sacrifice is giving up your life,” Tomb Sentinel Sgt. Shane Vincent said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “But these soldiers gave up not only their lives but their identities.”

For Memorial Day, The Daily Caller interviewed a few of the soldiers tasked with guarding the tomb — soldiers known as sentinels who are at their position in rain, shine, snow, sleet or hurricane.

Not only that, they certainly don’t look like slobs doing it.

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“The amount of dedication that we have to put into our uniforms, the amount of time we have to spend on perfecting our outside performance and studying our knowledge, it takes a lot of dedication,” Sentinel Spc. Antonio Garcia said.

“We’re out there because, you know, those unknown soldiers, they deserve every bit of perfection that we give them when we step beyond the chains and on to that plaza,” Garcia said.



“It is for those families. It is for those unknown soldiers who gave that ultimate sacrifice,” Garcia said.

And perhaps it’s something we were able to remember this Memorial Day.

I don’t think I’m shocking or offending anyone when I note that for most people, Memorial Day isn’t really a memorial day for the troops who died in service to this country.

It’s the beginning of summer. If you’re a strict fashionista, it’s a demarcation that says you can wear white now, at least until Labor Day. It’s a time for barbecues and fireworks and attaching bottle rockets to balsa wood gliders to see how far you can make them fly. (At least if your Memorial Days as a kid were anything like mine.)

This year was a bit different. If you had a barbecue, it was likely a lonely affair. The fireworks have been silenced; the merriment has been put to bed and won’t wake up for a long while.

We’re remembering plenty of dead this year. Some of them may have been close to us. Others we’ve become acquainted with through the news: single mothers, health care workers, nursing home patients.

It’s right and necessary for us to think of them. However, the pause also gives us a moment to think of those who made the ultimate sacrifice — especially those whose names aren’t known, those who reside in tombs marked simply with the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier elicits some pretty strong reactions from veterans, obviously.

“When you see a World War II veteran struggling to get out of his wheelchair so that he can stand during taps, and salute during taps, that really hits home. It lets you know exactly what this place really is about,” Vincent said.

There’s a reason for that. That World War II veteran very likely knows his comrades who died in places such as Iwo Jima, Normandy and the Ardennes. He knows their names. He probably knows their stories, their loves, the aspirations they had once the war was over.

Do we take Memorial Day as seriously as we should?

Their stories are tragic, but there’s one thing we can say about them: We know their stories, or at least someone does. We know where they died — and in many cases, how they died.

In Arlington, there are soldiers whose identity is known only to God. Our finest protect these unknown individuals, no matter what the weather, no matter what the situation.

This is a sacred duty to them, something that speaks to the ineffable brotherhood that exists in our military. It’s something we usually don’t think about on Memorial Day. We should.

This pause in our national life has caused us to re-evaluate many things. One hopes it allows us to re-evaluate our relationship with Memorial Day. It’s anything but a long weekend or an opportunity for a cookout.

If you need proof of this, just ask the sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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