Saturday, May 23, 2015


With measured tread, the soldier of the Old Guard, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the United States Army, marches exactly 21 paces, halts, executes a facing movement to the east (towards the tomb), pauses 21 seconds, performs another facing movement towards the mat, brings his weapon to his outside shoulder and steps off again.

21 paces.

21 seconds.

Always 21.

Matching, though in silence, the 21 gun salute.

But no cannon fire erupts in Arlington.

For this is the Tomb of the Unknowns, which bears the inscription...


The shells are screaming in faster now. The explosions are so many that it seems like one continuous roar. The Earth itself shakes, bouncing the soldiers in their trenches as each round slams into the frozen hillside.

The young private from Iowa is hunched down, trembling. He has been at the front for just a day. He is a replacement. He doesn't know his squad mates, they don't know him. He is thousands of miles from home. He is terrified.

He grips his rifle, praying that this ordeal will soon be over.

A shell explodes directly over his position. A moment of searing heat and pain.

Then nothing...

After the shelling stops, after another assault has been repulsed, the Lieutenant wants to know where the new guy is. No one can say.

He will be carried as "Missing In Action" - one of thousands who didn't go home.

The coxswain was straining to keep his boat pointed towards the beach. The surf was up and there was more of a current than expected.

As he conned the Higgins boat towards shore, he spared a glance at the Marines hunched down in front of him.

Poor bastards.

As they got closer to the beach, a streak of light caught the young sailor's attention. He moaned quietly as he realized, "That was a tracer. Sweet Jesus, they're shooting at us!"

Geysers began to erupt close to the boat. Artillery from the defenders. Damn, this is going to be dicey.

When the keel hit the beach, he dropped the ramp, watched as the Marines began to offload and head for what little cover the beach offered. Some of them dropped into the water and didn't move.

As he brought the ramp up and began to get his boat back out to the transport for another load, two men manning a Type 96 machine gun swung the barrel of their weapon slightly to the left and up.

The Higgins boat stalled and drifted back onto the shore.

The young coxswain had done his job. His war, his life, was over.

The two F-4B Phantoms have just gone "feet dry" over North Vietnam. They are headed in to attack a "suspected truck park." Lead is alert, keeping his scan going. One mission, this mission, and then he can go home.

So far it's been a milk run, just like Ops predicted. A lot more broken cloud than the weather-guessers predicted but we should be okay. Supposed to be fairly clear in the target area.

"Jumbo," he called out to his RIO over the intercom, "how far out are we?"

"I'm showing twenty miles out, Squirt. RHAW gear is quiet, knock on wood." Jumbo said, tapping his fist against his flight helmet.

Both crew members at that point heard a garbled transmission on the squadron frequency. The hair on the back of Squirt's neck stood up, he swore he heard the word "SAM."

"Eyes out Jumbo."

"Yeah, I thought I heard SAM in that last call." Jumbo replied from the back seat.

"Uh, Bullet Four, did you copy that last transmission." Squirt radioed to his wingman.

"Negative, Three. I'm getting a lot of static..."


The crew of Bullet Four could only stare in horror as what used to be Bullet Three was just a dirty smudge in the sky, raining debris...

World War One's Unknown Soldier comes home.

Hospitalman William R. Charette, who received the Medal of Honor for Korean War heroism, selects the Unknown Serviceman of World War II, during ceremonies on board USS Canberra (CAG-2), 26 May 1958. The other World War II Unknown Serviceman candidate's casket is at left, with the Unknown Serviceman of the Korean War in the middle. After completion of the selection ceremonies, the World War II and Korean War Unknown Servicemen were carried to Washington, D.C., for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The other World War II Unknown was buried at sea.

Please enjoy this weekend. It's the unofficial start of summer. Time for picnics, trips to the beach, cookouts and baseball.

Yes, it's Memorial Day weekend.

It's a time to honor those who gave their lives in defense of our country. Our way of life.

Those who gave their lives for us, for you and me.

Spare a moment for them this weekend.

Just a moment.

If those who died for us could, they would be alongside us this weekend. Having a beer. Turning over a burger on the grill. Watching the ball game.

But they can't. So we need to remember them.

Honor their memories.

This weekend, as I always do, I shall raise a glass to the sky...

And salute those who gave the last full measure.

Quietly, I'll say "Cheers my brothers and sisters."

And I'll say, softly and with a tear in my eye, "Thank you."

The Old Guard transports the flag-draped casket of the second Sergeant Major of the Army George W. Dunaway who was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
(U.S.Army photo by J.D. Leipold 2008)
A tugboat tows the decommissioned aircraft carrier Midway past Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to San Diego Bay.
(U.S. Navy photo by Geoffrey Patrick,  Jan. 5, 2004)


  1. Rainy and muddy around here but I seem to have a lot of dust in my eye this morning.

    Thanks Sarge. Very well done.

  2. Its a solemn time, I know, but I just have to inject some irreverent humor here as its Tomb of the Unknowns specific. (in a nice, funny way) When an undergraduate at LSU, several of my younger fraternity brothers got drunk one night and somehow ended up in a graveyard and decided (and I can't imagine the physical effort involved) to uproot a Civil War era fairly large civilian headstone and transport it to the LSU campus wherein they positioned it (for no known good reason that they could remember once sober) firmly in front of the entrance to the Library. (campus security obviously not being what it it is today. Natch a pic made the front page of the Campus newspaper The Daily Reveille and much official outrage ensued. They were never caught, and when we asked them as to why they would pull such a bone-head stunt (tho logistically quite impressive for a group that had only their hands to work with and a car to transport the thing w.o. shattering it) the ans was the standard drunk: "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

    Fast-forward a few years and I'm just back on leave from my tour in Vietnam and, spending most of it in the N.O/B.R. area before a week with my parents in Illinois prior to heading to my assignment in the UK. I stopped by the fraternity house as I had at the time only been away a couple of years and still knew many there and several of my own classmates were still around in grad school. In the old game of "where is so&so and what's he doing now?" the name of one of the sharper (but crazier) erst-while tombstone robbers came up. "Oh, he flunked out and was drafted, in the Army, but he ended up in the outfit guarding the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, so avoided Vietnam completely." Another fraternity brother quickly quipped, smiling: "I wonder if the Army knows it has a grave-robber guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns." LOL!

  3. Everyone who has served has given at least part of his life. We thank all!

  4. Deepest respect to those who perished, and their families. This weekend, and always. Our freedoms are too often taken for granted; they were purchased at a dear cost.

    The VN jets should be going "feet dry", not "feet wet".

    1. Excellent points Mike.

      (I have corrected the dry vs wet error. I swear I get my wires crossed more often than not. Those guys going inbound would have confused the Hell out of Red Crown had they reported "feet wet" and not "feet dry." Thanks, I do count on my readers to keep me straight!)


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