ARLINGTON, Va. - Since 1948, The Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Identification Badge, has been awarded to a small percentage of soldiers who exemplified selfless service while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier [TUS] in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. On Nov.17, they gathered to reflect on this special duty and the unique bond that exist within it.
“We are a part of a strong brotherhood of dedicated men and women that have worn this badge over the years,” said Sgt. Brian Gougler, Sentinel, TUS, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “No matter what generation they served in, [badge holders] all live by the same creed.”
Gougler said he looked forward to his first Tomb reunion because of the understanding he hoped to gain from the experience.
“This is how we continue to pass the torch of knowledge to the next generation,” said Gougler. “I’m able to talk with badge holders who served 40 or 50 years ago to gain a deeper understanding of how things used to be. They’re major differences because time has certainly changed, but the mission has remained the same. There is only one standard and that is perfection in everything we do.”
During the reunion, Sentinels, past and present, reflected on their honorable duty.
“We talked about how each Sentinel spent many late nights preparing a perfect uniform to walk the mat,” said Gougler.
“Sentinels today are allowed to wear head gear that wasn’t allowed back then, and that’s ok. Some things do separate us, but we all did our missions no matter what.”
Gougler added how great it was to see this time of bonding with those who have earned the badge.
Timothy F. Gerard, Sentinel Badge # 328, Society of the Honor Guard, TUS, agreed.
“It really means a lot to the older guys to talk with some of these younger guys,” said Gerard. “It is both refreshing and rewarding because some badge holders who served many years ago still wish they could still get back out there and guard the Tomb.”
Gougler shared the same sentiments.
“It is amazing to see the younger guys and some of these gentlemen talk and share what is a special time that only a very few have experienced or even know about,” said Gougler. “I found that many guys enjoyed the night hours. They were the best times in my life.”
It can take anywhere between six months to more than a year to earn the badge, the second least awarded badge in the Army after the Astronaut Badge. Gerard said this rarity helps keep the group even closer.
“There aren’t that many of us, so everyone knows everyone,” said Gerard.
Although the years have come and gone along with the duties of those who once served, one thing remains unchanged about the responsibility of a Tomb Sentinel.
“The job of guarding the Tomb is still being done every day. It doesn’t matter the time of day or weather condition,” said Gougler.
“This is the best job in the Army because each one of us has given our best to provide the Unknowns the proper dignity and respect they deserve. Each generation of Sentinels is tied to one another and it provides a direct link to the history of the job I love.”