I originally received this in an e-mail from a Navy Buddy of mine in 2003. He was living in the DC area at the time. It refers to Hurricane Isabel, which tore through Virginia, DC and Maryland in September, 2003. I have saved it and usually send it on Veterans Day to everyone whose e-mail address I have. I'd like to share it with the Batavian readers if I may.
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns
The Third Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer,VA has the responsibility for
providing ceremonial units and honor guards for state occasions, White
House social functions, public celebrations and interments at Arlington
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 are dedicated to
this work...it is no 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.
THEY DISOBEYED THE ORDER...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 goddamn idiot who couldn't
stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty." ....Then he said
something in response to a female reporters 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 bullshit 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, Arleigh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us...survives.
On the ABC evening news, it was reported tonight that, because of the
dangers from Hurricane Isabel approaching Washington DC, the military
members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were
given permission to suspend the assignment. They refused. "No way, Sir!"
Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they
said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest
honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been
patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.
Although Patton, Burke, and Doolittle were never enlisted men, we can honor them anyway. It's a great story and if you've never seen the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns, it is worth the trip. God bless and keep any vet who reads this and Thank you for your service.