2017-11-08 / Front Page

We salute our Veterans on Veterans’ Day, Nov 11th!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery 
(Photo contributed) Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery (Photo contributed) Diane Wasden of Millen has been awarded the Chapter 119 Award for her article “There’s a World to See in the U.S.A.” that was entered in the Veterans Voices Writing Project. The article recently appeared in the “Veterans Voices” magazine.

In the latter part of the 1970s Diane was a rookie with the 561st Military Police Company at Fort Myer, VA and fresh out of training. Fort Myer runs alongside Arlington National Cemetery with a knee-high brick wall separating the two. This connection between the Fort and Cemetery is the subject of Diane’s article which is printed “in part” below.

“It is funny, when you enlist in the Army they ask you to name your three dream duty assignments and where you would like to be stationed. All of my choices were overseas; I wanted to see the world. Instead I was sent to Fort Myer, just outside Washington, D.C…..”

“Early on, my roommate warned me to watch out for the newbie pranks, so, of course, my guard was up. I was less than a week into my new assignment when I pulled foot patrol. It was a cool fall night, about three in the morning, and my partner asked me if I’d seen the cemetery yet. I said, “No.” As we walked toward the back parking lot, which runs parallel with the cemetery wall, my partner started to tell me scary ghost stories.”

“He didn’t have a clue that I didn’t scare easily and that it would take a lot to spook me, so being a good sport, I just went along with him. We sat on the brick wall and took a break. My partner told me he was going to jump the wall and go into the cemetery looking for soldiers doing what they shouldn’t be doing. He said he would move out to the right and I should move to the left and meet him at the chapel in 45 minutes. I agreed…..The night was so silent one could hear a pin drop. But, it wasn’t a pin I heard. It was a clicking  sound of some sort, ringing like a dinner bell and calling to me to come…I was thinking maybe my partner was behind this unknown sound….”

 “I continued walking toward the clicking noise. I came up on a building. As I walked around the side, I experienced another “Wow!” moment. The sight took my breath away! Before me was the tomb of the military’s most guarded soldier, a soldier I’d only read about and heard about in school. What a privilege to be able to witness such a sight. It made me realize that soldiers die. Yes, but they are never forgotten. We continue to honor them. Then, I noticed the soldier in dress blues walking his rifle.”

 “As he reached the end of his walk, he turned and snapped his heels. That was the sound I had been hearing. The metal plates on his heels made the sound that echoed throughout the night. One could tell how proud this soldier was to have such an honor placed upon him. Not once did he look at me or slow his pace. Not a whispered word did he speak. It reminded me of the guards in front of the queen’s castle in England. These are some of the U.S. Army’s best soldiers. They are chosen to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine. The Unknown Soldier is one of American’s most beloved soldiers. He may have come home nameless, but he has many hopeful names put on him for the many who never made it home. He stands for peace of mind for many.

 “I want to thank the soldiers who protect the grave. It was nice to see you take your job so seriously. You had no idea I would be watching you, yet you gave 100% just as you would during the day with crowds all around. This Unknown Soldier is hope and joy for those who don’t have a loved one’s grave to visit. Job well done, soldier!"

 “One thing I learned from my experience that night is that you don’t have to go overseas to see the world. There are so many things to see. Even if you take a lifetime, you could never see it all. I was truly blessed to be sent to Fort Myer. And, yes, they never did prank me!”

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