Memorial Day Morning at The Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers

| May 26, 2008

This morning I went to the Tombs of The Unknown Soldiers. But I couldn’t have gotten there earlier than the soldiers of 3rd Infantry Regiment. One MP told me he’d been out there since 0400. No where is it more evident of how much our world has changed in the last decade since I started going to the wreath ceremonies at the Tombs on Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day.

When I first started going while President Clinton was in the White House, we didn’t have to go through metal detectors, and we just walked up to the Memorial and there were never more than a couple hundred people in attendance. Today, we had to bussed up to the memorial to control the crowds and we were all passed through metal detectors and our bags were hand searched. And there were a couple of thousand people to watch the event.

I got there at about 0800 just as the Cemetery opened and there were already about a thousand people there ahead of me. It took about 45 minutes to get through all of the security and find a decent spot to wait. While we waited, the guards changed a few times so I videoed it for those of you who might never have seen it.

I saw Bob Dole talking to Ike Skelton;

The troops started forming up on the memorial;

And the band reported;

Then it was time for President Bush. I videoed most of the event because it was easier than trying to shoot photos around the heads of the dignitaries and the jerk who stood right in front of me;

After the ceremony, I only got this picture of the President and his escort;

I stuck around and watched the troops retire the colors;

I love drill and ceremony as long as I don’t have to march in it. The single advantage of being a short private in the Ranger Battalion.

I did get to shake hands with Sergeant Major of the Army Ken Preston and thank him for helping to build such a wonderful Army (I’m sure my compliment will end up being a bullet in his NCOER). He looked too young to be Sergeant Major of the Army, though. or maybe I’m getting old.

As I was leaving, I just happened to glance up from the road and saw SFC Paul Ray Smith‘s marker (actually, it was kind of eerie), so I stopped and paid my respects;

And this reminded me of COB6’s post Promises Worth Keeping;

So that’s how I spent my Memorial Day. I’d planned on going to the Vietnam Memorial ceremony, but I got held up for security reasons, so I missed it. But these guys and gals worked hard for this ceremony and all you get to see of it is five seconds of the President setting the wreath down on the nightly news.

Last Veterans’ Day when I put the video of the ceremony up, I got an email to my YouTube account from the sergeant who handed the wreath to the President. He wrote to thank me because he finally had something to show his family about his work at Fort Myers. So this post is for those troops who practiced for the event for countless hours and then stood out in the searing heat this morning. They have my eternal thanks for this and everything else they do for us. These are the faces of the folks who stand in the breach.

Stop by last years post to see who I think about on Memorial Day.

Category: Support the troops

Comments (6)

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  1. ponsdorf says:

    Thanks yet again.

  2. Beautiful pictures and the video is superb!
    Thank you for taking them and sharing.

  3. Ray says:

    Jonn,

    Thanks for sharing this. I will have to wait till I get home tomorrow morning to see your pictures and videos as our server here at work will not allow me to view them. I think that’s also why when I post from work it ends up in your spam folder. I spent this morning sitting on my bike “walking” in a parade with some fellow PGR members. (I say “walking” because we rarely got going fast enough to lift our feet, let alone shift gears LOL.) I plan to spend tomorrow checking out your pics and drinking the beer I couldn’t drink befor going to work today as well as nursing the amazing sunburn I got instead of sleeping. I figured their sacrifice was worth me sacrificing my sleep today.

    I couldn’t take the time off to make it to DC this year, but someday… Meanwhile, remind all your readers that you don’t need a bike to be a member of the PGR. Some of our most valuable members are the “cagers” that carry the water and supplies for missions.

    Happy Memorial Day

  4. Jonn,

    While reading your report, viewing the pictures and the videos of the changing of the guard and President Bush laying the wreath, I felt like I was there! There’s nothing like a 21 gun salute with artillery! As usual, when Taps is played, a tear comes to my eye as I think of those who’ve given all for us.

    While attending the Blessing of the graves at the cemetery that my Dad is buried, I heard the 21 gun salute that was given at the Chili, NY Memorial Day ceremony, off in the distance, as Father Dan led us in a verse of Amazing Grace at Father Murphy’s grave. Father Murphy was the founding pastor of my Mom and Dad’s parish, a paratrooper and Silver Star recipient from WWII. My Dad served in the Navy aboard the destroyer, the USS Doyle, during WWII. There are many WWII veterans buried at that parish cemetery.

  5. zoey says:

    your pictures are so wonderful. i felt as if i were there.

    i read your post from last year… of sgt griz martin. i googled around abit and read about him and our other amazing soldiers in mogadishu. i cried for them all over again. thanks for reminding me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    this is soooo cool! i went there for my 8th grade washington dc trip! 4 students got to lay the reith at the ceremony! it was awsome!!!!!!