On Saturday afternoon, September 08, 2018, under cloudy skies with intermittent rain, President General Warren Alter laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on behalf of the SAR. Escorted by Soldiers of the Old Guard, PG Alter was assisted in placing the wreath by Virginia Society President Pat Kelly. Virginia Color Guard Commander and Virginia Society Second Vice President Bill Schwetke and George Washington Chapter President Ernie Coggins were also part of the presentation party. A good number of compatriots attended in spite of the weather, and members of the Virginia Society Color Guard formed a guard of honor on the steps leading to the Tomb.
The Sentinels who guard the Tomb are all volunteers and are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). They guard the Tomb twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year regardless of the weather. In addition to protecting this sacred site, the Soldiers of The Old Guard maintain reverence and silence.
The Tomb contains the remains of the Unknown Soldiers of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The Unknown Soldier from World War I was interred on November 11, 1921. A white marble sarcophagus was placed over the grave. On May 30, 1958, the Unknowns from World War II and Korea were buried by the sarcophagus, and their graves were marked with flat marble slabs. An Unknown from the Vietnam War was buried on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984 and this grave was also marked by a flat marble slab. As the result of DNA analysis, these remains were identified and exhumed in 1998. It has been decided that this crypt will remain vacant and the crypt cover was replaced with one inscribed with the words “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”
It has become an annual tradition for the George Washington Chapter of the Virginia Society to host this ceremony for the President General to honor the Unknowns and all who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Submitted by Ernie Coggins, George Washington Chapter President
President General Warren Alter (left) accompanied by Virginia President Pat Kelly (right) and escorted by a Soldier of The Old Guard, lays a wreath for the National Society at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery on September 08, 2018. The Soldier with the red cap is the bugler and a member of The United States Army Band.
SAR Compatriots attending President General Alter’s wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Saturday, 08 September 2018. From left to right: Bill Schwetke, Dr. Don Reynolds, Ernie and Diane Coggins, Jeff Thomas, Ken Morris, Dennis Peterson, Dave Thomas, Dwight Whitney, Pat and Jennifer Kelly, Warren and Nancy Alter, Jim O’Kelley with grandson Bailey Friedman, Vern Eubanks, Dave Cook, Mike Taimi, Pete Davenport, Jack Pitzer, Joe Famme, and Rev. Dr. Gene Thomas. Photographer Tom Roth is not pictured.