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snopes
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HONOR GUARD AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.

3. Why are his gloves wet?

His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?

He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5. How often are the guards changed?

Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30."

Other requirements of the Guard:

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.

They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

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Warlok
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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Most of these are true - But after #6 for the "other" they go off into never-never land!

They are actually the "Tomb Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns" -- part of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment which lives at Ft Meyer Va.

Here is their web site, which is part of this site - look under specialty platoons.

Warlok

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pinqy
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#6 is no longer quite true either, as females have been allowed to serve in the Old Guard.

pinqy

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bufungla
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
Other requirements of the Guard:

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.

They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in any way.

I'm not sure which subset of the Old Guard actually guard the Tomb, but my ex son in law is Old Guard, and the wedding reception was full of Old Guard. Most of them were underage, and all of them were drunk as can be. From what I've heard, this was hardly an isolated incident.

buf 'they are rather tall, though' ungla

[ETA: What Warlock said (sorry, didn't read your post carefully enough). Never-never land, indeed]

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Warlok
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Just for reference -- if you didn't dig into the web-site... If you serve 9 months (post training/qual) on the Tomb Guard unit, you are qualified to were the badge (permanantly) on your uniform.

Warlok

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GI Joe
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Not to be cruel . . .

But a recent issue of Army Magazine shows members of the Old Guard who have been deployed to the Horn of Africa. First time the Old Guard has been deployed since Vietnam, according to the article. Most of the issue has photos of rough, dirty, business-like troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, then suddenly you turn the page and see this gaggle of tall, model-thin, pretty-boy ceremonial geeks looking distinctly uncomfortable in the field in their never-been-dirtied BDUs and straight-out-of-depot field gear. It's pretty funny.

I understand the need for a ceremonial unit, and I don't mean to knock the job they do, but still it's funny seeing the Dress Blues crowd having to muck about the boondocks like regular troops.

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valee
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It's a tremendous physical and mental strain to guard the tomb in all kinds of weather under extreme scrutiny from the public. I recall the members of the guard who were patients when I worked at Walter Reed - suffering from a combination of the tomb walk's effect on the body and on the mind. You could hear them practicing their guard walk in the hospital halls throughout the night - 21 steps, pause, 21 steps, pause, 21 steps. All of them were keenly aware that they represented the appreciation that America had for the sacrifices made by those in the military.
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Unicorn
The Red and the Green Stamps


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The Old Guard does go to the field. Not as often as most units, but they do train.
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GI Joe
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quote:
Originally posted by Unicorn:
The Old Guard does go to the field. Not as often as most units, but they do train.

Yeah, I know. In the 82d we had to provide ARTEP support to them up at A.P. Hill.

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Joe Bentley
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The Travel Channel did a special on Arlington National Cemetary last night and the last 15 or so minutes of the show dealt with the Old Guard.


Points 1 through 6 were all mentioned and explained, so seem to be true. They also showed the barracks near the tomb where they live.

Several of the Guards did explain the extreme details they pay attention to while preparing there uniforms, but I don't know if 5 hours a day is accurate.


As far as field training it did show the old guard performing combat training and said that members of the Old Guard where some of the first on the scene on 9/11 (The Pentagon's property bordering Arlington made them one of the closest unit) and performed search and rescue missions the next day.

A video of the Changing of the Guard, An Army funeral with full military honors, and the Vigil of the Tomb sentinels can be found at the Travel Channel website at Travel Channel

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Spam & Cookies-mmm
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quote:
Originally posted by GI Joe:
quote:
Originally posted by Unicorn:
The Old Guard does go to the field. Not as often as most units, but they do train.

Yeah, I know. In the 82d we had to provide ARTEP support to them up at A.P. Hill.
ARTEP?

Sorry, man. I juggle NAVICPs and SPECWARs all day, but what the heck is ARTEP?

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Joe Bentley
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*Sniffs* All the sweet smell of acronyms. Enough to make a military man twitter like a schoolgirl.

Artep = Army Training and Evaluation Program

"Sir seeing as how the VP is such a VIP shouldn't we keep the PC on the QC? Because if it leaks into the VC he could wind up MIA and then we would all be put on KP."

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Warlok
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quote:
Originally posted by Joe Bentley: Basking in the Sun:
...said that members of the Old Guard where some of the first on the scene on 9/11 (The Pentagon's property bordering Arlington made them one of the closest unit) and performed search and rescue missions the next day.

That may be what the show said... but, the SAR was pretty much done in hours -- some of them did work on body recovery the next day, but primarily as "escorts" once professional firemen etc sifted through the dangerous rubble and found someone. More accurately a large chunk of them were doing armed guard duty... They were quite obvious when compared to what had been the normal guards. Their size/standardization coupled with the M-16s they carried set them pretty well apart... They were there about a week, and then units from Ft Belvoir and Army Grd started showing up...

Warlok

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GI Joe
Jingle Bell Hock


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Anybody out there remember the Old Guard marching cadence that begins like this?

"Ashes to Ashes,
Dust to dust . . . "

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mouse goddess
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Does anyone have a list of the 175 so-called "notable people"??? I'm just curious if my mom qualifies.

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BeachLife
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quote:
Originally posted by mouse goddess:
Does anyone have a list of the 175 so-called "notable people"??? I'm just curious if my mom qualifies.

Here's about 100 of them:
Prominent Military Figures Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Incidentally, the quotes around a word or phrase usually mean 'so called' making you sentence redundant. But, why would you imply that they may not be notable without seeing the list?

ETA: This page has a full links to several lists of notable people.

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mouse goddess
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Oh that's nice, she is on there.
I didn't mean to come off as snarky with the quotes....it was more a comment on some of the people being notable while others weren't. They were all notable to someone.

That's one of the hard things about visiting there. You're there to grieve, and other people are there as a tourist stop. I don't hold that against them, but it makes one a little self-concious when one has snot dribbling down their chin.

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Gibbie
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mouse goddess states:
quote:
Oh that's nice, she is on there.
Ok, I'll ask, who's your mom?

Gibbie

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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That's very cool, though I can understand where it'd be hard to visit with all the tourists around. Was she a naval aviator?

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mouse goddess
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Yeah, she was the first female naval aviator....Obviously with people like Amelia Earhart and the WAC's out there, it's more semantics than anything, but I think it's neat.

She died when I was 4...So I'm always looking for info on her....yes, it probably WOULD be easier to just ask my dad, but it makes hime sad, and what daughter wants to make her daddy sad??

I started a post a while back about finding an old episode of What's My Line? that she was on in the 70's (as the person whose line was being guessed) but Game Show Network hasn't gotten back to me. I'd love to see that, because it would have sound as well.

Here's a nice site that a guy put up.

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/barbaraa.htm

I should really drop him a line, I don't even know the guy, and it's a really nice site. It's funny, I was out there just a week or so after the second picture was taken, brushing off those grass clippings....weird.

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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That is awesome. I'm sorry to hear that she died when you were so young though. She was my first guess when I saw the list, but I didn't want to be presumptious.

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Gibbie
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That's beautiful mouse goddess, thank you for sharing her story with us. I think you should ask your dad about her. I'm sure it's a bittersweet feeling for your dad, sad that she's gone but happy to remember her. It would probably be good for you both.

Gibbie

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Pyg Me
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I knew a guy who was in the Old Guard. He was the most arrogant SOB I have ever met in my life. Pretty much disgusted everyone he ever met.

I remember when he introduced himself, "....I was part of the Old Guard" as he nodded his head up and down, while looking from side to side, with a look on his face that suggested he was holding back a smile..."yeah, yeah. Its really no big deal."

You could almost hear the loud cheer of a 60,000 seat stadium that was packed to capacity...inside his head.

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Unicorn
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Most of the guys I met who were cocky were tomb guards, even some of the other companies said that the tomb guys were cocky.

But you almost seem to be saying that all tomb guards are jerks because of the one that you met. That's like saying that all Snopes members generalise people based upon one occurence.

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Malruhn
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Yeah? Well, they do! The lousy bastages!!


Every last one of them is a damn generalising fool who distort facts to their own ends and then post drivel. Hey, even _I_ knew Kyoko!

[fish] OUCH!! Hey, what was THAT for?!

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BrianB
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It looks like this has mutated. I just received a version from a friend that is identical to the version in the OP except that it has the following appened to it:
quote:
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
{ snipped stuff in OP }

The Sentinels Creed:

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect. His bravery that made us so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

More Interesting facts about the Tomb of the Unknowns itself:

The marble for the Tomb of the Unknowns was furnished by the Vermont Marble Company of Danby, Vt. The marble is the finest and whitest of American marble, quarried from the Yule Marble Quarry located near Marble, Colorado and is called Yule Marble. The Marble for the Lincoln memorial and other famous buildings was also quarried there.

The Tomb consists of seven pieces of rectangular marble:

Four pieces in sub base; weight - 15 tons;

One piece in base or plinth; weight - 16 tons;

One piece in die; weight - 36 tons;

One piece in cap; weight - 12 tons;

Carved on the East side (the front of the Tomb, which faces Washington, D.C.) is a composite of three figures, commemorative of the spirit of the Allies of World War I.

In the center of the panel stands Victory (female).

On the right side, a male figure symbolizes Valor.

On the left side stands Peace, with her palm branch to reward the devotion and sacrifice that went with courage to make the cause of righteousness triumphant.

The north and south sides are divided into three panels by Doric pilasters. In each panel is an inverted wreath.

On the west, or rear, panel (facing the Amphitheater) is inscribed:

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD

The first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sub base and a base or plinth. It was slightly smaller than the present base. This was torn away when the present Tomb was started Aug. 27, 1931. The Tomb was completed and the area opened to the public 9:15 a.m. April 9, 1932, without any ceremony.

Cost of the Tomb: $48,000

Sculptor: Thomas Hudson Jones

Architect: Lorimer Rich

Contractors: Hagerman &Harris, New York City

Inscription: Author Unknown

(Interesting Commentary)

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 NationalCemetery and standing a very formal sentry watch at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The public is familiar with the precision of what is called "walking post" at the Tomb. There are roped off galleries where visitors can form to observe the troopers and their measured step and almost mechanically, silent rifle shoulder changes. They are relieved every hour in a very formal drill that has to be seen to be believed.

Some people think that when the Cemetery is closed to the public 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 unaccounted for American combat dead. The steady rhythmic step in rain, sleet, snow, hail, heat and cold must be uninterrupted. Uninterrupted is the important part of the honor shown.

Recently, while you were sleeping, the teeth of hurricane Isabel came through this area and tore hell out of everything. We had thousands of trees down, power outages, traffic signals out, roads filled with downed limbs and "gear adrift" debris. We had flooding and the place looked like it had 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 highwinds, 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 damned 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 b.s. seem 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 spirit that George S. Patton, Arliegh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us ... survives.

On the ABC evening news, it was reported recently 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.

Very, very proud of our soldiers in uniform!

Live each day to the fullest. Get the most from each hour, each day, and each age of your life.

Brian

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Etienne
We Three Blings


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I've never had to deal with a tropical storm, but I find that in strong wind, my steps can't be as mesured...

I find that one hard to believe. I'm pretty sure the unknown soldier didn't mind if the guy took shelter from flying tombstones.

'tienne

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CannonFodder Global Trotter
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If you find that hard to believe then you don't know much about soldiers. We'll bitch and moan and complain 'til the cows come home, but when we attach importance to any matter no matter how actually trivial we will indeed throw away our comforts and our lives to complete the task.

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"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

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Malruhn
The "Was on Sale" Song


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I always kinda liked that.

When doing funeral details; providing pall bearers, rifle squad and bugler, the people involved would bitch and whine and moan like you wouldn't believe... unless of course there is someone outside the "team" that could hear.

Let's reword that - with good leadership, no-one else hears. If leadership is poor, then outsiders hear the complaints...

Then the hearse pulls up, and the team springs into action, doing what they were trained to do... no matter what the conditions or what happens. I once saw a member of the flag-folding team that slipped and fell INTO the grave, scraping the hell out of his shin and cut his forehead on the vault below. There was no cry, no hue, no nothing. That side of the team just spread out to cover the missing man's slot and it was business as usual. To be honest, I am not sure that the family even realized that there was a bleeding man in their loved one's grave.

When all is said and done, and the team walks (limps) away, then it is laughs and jokes and talk about the game or the upcoming weekend... and no more bitching about the biting wind or the freezing rain, or the horrible hours or anything else.

This lasts all the way until the team gets notified of the next detail... and then the bitching begins anew...

I always liked watching that shift from complaints to rejoicing.

By the way, the "Count" survived and was teased unmercifully for at least two more years until I left the unit... and I am sure much longer. He was named for Dracula who rose, bleeding and sore, like a silent spectre, from the grave. We all chipped in to buy him another pair of pants and a shirt as the blood never came out... but the teasing was worth it!

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Opinions aren't excuses to remain ignorant about subjects, nor are they excuses to never examine one's beliefs & prejudices...

Babies are like tattoos. You see other peoples' & they're cool, but yours is never as good & you can't get rid of it.

Posts: 5622 | From: Jax, Florida | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
pinqy
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I hated doing funeral details, because I really am the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral. I get the giggles standing over a corpse and it takes a lot to not just bust out laughing..I don't know why I have this reaction. So they made sure I never faced the family while I sttod at the casket holding the flag.

pinqy

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Don't Forget!
Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Kwanzaa & Gurnenthar's Ascendance Are Coming!

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CannonFodder Global Trotter
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I've done a few myself (can ya' tell?), and I'm only able to maintain my solemnity when I'm actually "on stage". I don't know why it is, as in both cases I knew the soldier being laid to rest pretty well. Does anyone else have this response to death? Or is this just an odd soldier thing?

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"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Posts: 2776 | From: LSA Anaconda, Iraq | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Malruhn
The "Was on Sale" Song


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Actually, when the full ceremony is used, the three round volley and Taps makes me cry like a baby.

The only thing that keeps me together is when I am the one playing the trumpet... and then I just focus on each phrase and the sound. Once its done, THEN I lose it. ESPECIALLY if there are kids involved.

At my step-dad's funeral, the local American Legion did the three round volley and then hit the "Play" button on a radio/tape-player. Problem was, the selector was on "radio" and some Richard Marx song came blasting out. I was screwed so tightly at the time, just waiting for the trumpet sounds that I suddenly snorted and laughed - earning me the evil eye from nearly all my pop's friends.

I still think it was pretty apropos as the goof was just like all my pop's friends... kinda hokey with a good heart.

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Opinions aren't excuses to remain ignorant about subjects, nor are they excuses to never examine one's beliefs & prejudices...

Babies are like tattoos. You see other peoples' & they're cool, but yours is never as good & you can't get rid of it.

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Warlok
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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Well, luckily the new "bugle" CD player will take care of that. It is being fielded now -- looks just like a bugle, but , hit the button and it plays itself... Supposedly works very well and has gotten great reviews from families where it was used.

I've always had trouble at funerals when I'm an attendee - something about taps and the vollies just chokes me up. But on the other hand, having done a LOT of details (base teams that covered 4 national cemetaries and parts of 4 states) I never choked up then. It was always hard to hand that flag to the recipient, but always managed to do it, say my piece and look them in the eye. And yeah - my guys were just like above. Bitch and moan, tillt he moment, then consumate professionals.

Warlok

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Inconceivable

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Moosedog
The Red and the Green Stamps


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One school district superintendent here put out an order that any HS band trumpeter or cornetist who missed school to play 'Taps' at a veteran's funeral could have it counted as an 'excused' absence. I know, a trumpet or cornet isn't exactly the same thing as a bugle, but IMHO better than recorded.
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dofwai
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Warlok:
Well, luckily the new "bugle" CD player will take care of that. It is being fielded now -- looks just like a bugle, but , hit the button and it plays itself... Supposedly works very well and has gotten great reviews from families where it was used.
Warlok

Actually, the devices I have seen are real bugles. They have an insert that goes down in the bell, and can't be seen without looking straight into it. It sounds pretty realistic, also. You can also play it like a regular bugle, if you have someone who can play!

I played a trumpet (didn't have a bugle...) for a Legion funeral once in High school. It was winter time, and colder than hell. I had to keep the mouthpiece in my pocket until I was ready to play, to keep from having it freeze to my lips. I was shivering so hard when I played that I had a nice tremolo going. I got complimented afterwards for my moving rendition....

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