GUARDS OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
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 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'm sure as hell have no intention of spending my Army career being known as the *dam idiot who couldn't stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty."
Then he said something in response to a reporters question regarding silly, purposeless personal risk.
"I wouldn't expect you to understand... it's an enlisted man's thing."
In a time in our nation's history when spin and total BS 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....