Story by: Lt. Col. Robert Manning
Secretary of the Army
WASHINGTON — Representing the city of Riverside, Calif., city leaders honored the sacrifice and dedication of U.S. service members by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery during a scheduled visit to the nation’s capital.
At precisely 9:15 a.m., the sergeant of the guard led the three city officials down the marble stairway of the Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater for the presentation of the ceremonial wreath.
Riverside city leaders who participated in the somber ceremony included: James “Jeb” Brown, supervising deputy to the city attorney; Michael J. Blakely, deputy chief of police; and Bruce E. Blomdahl, police lieutenant.
“It’s truly moving to see the dedication of the sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns and their dedication to the service of the
Unknowns that are buried there … it’s overwhelming,” said Brown. “Coming here and seeing the dedication of all the members of the military restores your faith in the future of our country.”
At the conclusion of the wreath ceremony, the group received a private tour of the sentinel’s living quarters and visited several sites within Arlington National Cemetery, including the grave of President John F. Kennedy and Section 60– an area of the cemetery set aside for service members killed while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade. Section 60 is often referred to as the “saddest acre in America.”
“The biggest feeling I have is pride,” said Blakely of his impressions during the visit. “Pride for America and what service members have sacrificed on behalf of this country.”
The leaders also visited the Pentagon and received an exclusive tour of the historic caisson stables at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, where they observed draft horses in their stalls and the caissons used to carry the flag-draped remains of fallen heroes to their final resting place in the cemetery.
“Once I stepped out of that bus today I felt the tingling on the back of my neck because I think it’s just something you got to smell, breath, and feel,” Blomdahl said. “It’s tremendous to see these young soldiers with such commitment and dedication. It is just so inspiring.”
The Riverside officials expressed gratitude for the resiliency and selfless service of all service members, and appreciation for the Army’s efforts to create a deeper understanding of the value of military service and what it means to be an American soldier.
“It’s important for the public to understand the mission of the military. It’s important for the military to expand those efforts so that the public can truly understand, and more importantly appreciate and honor, the service of members of the military,” Brown said.
The Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since July 2, 1937. Even in severe weather conditions, the elite sentinels never leave their post.
The first burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns was March 4, 1921, after Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater. A white marble sarcophagus was erected atop of the soldier’s grave, and to the west are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, which are marked by white marble slabs. The inscription on the sarcophagus reads, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”