I saw his name engraved in granite
In the shadow of the ivy covered oak
a long time tenant in that sacred grove
The wind moves now and then through
A bird alights sometimes, as if by chance,
It chirps and then flies on
all else is mute
The marble tomb nearby wear night and day
the sentries, stand with steadfast vigilance
it bears no name.
During the changing of the guards
at preset daylight hours
Upon command the sentries spring to life
and to action
They walk with slow, precisely measured steps
clicking their heels at certain intervals
toeing the line invisible
across expanse of marbled ground
presenting arms and slapping rifle
Flawless in execution and procedures
flawless in bearing and attire
one is the perfect mirror to the other
down to the last detail: just so, no more, no less
Their buckles shine, The honor badge is gleaming
The are the heroes of the Old Guard Regiment
Instant obedience and discipline
thus manifest, are but reflections
on inner core of strength, esprit and gallantry
submerging self for Cause and Greater Good.
(attained by very few)
The changing of the guard has been accomplished
The last command has been obeyed
The guard now on duty now enters his station
Stands at attention over the tomb
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The people come from far, here to these
hallowed hills to witness and be cast
in ceremony. They stand in silence
and they stare with awe,
They think of their solemn thoughts with
Transported by the mesmerizing ritual into
the Presence of a Greater Truth and Order
and brushed by the gentle wings of Destiny,
they seem to hear faint echoes stirring
from the vault of sky and time
evoking visions in their souls and puzzling
memories of what? from where?
Thus paying tribute to the One Unknown
(and with him to the many like him
whose burial mounds and crosses are
stretching far below The Tomb)
They sense that he who sacrificed his life
Decades ago nay centuries was
(and with him the many like him)
exalting Gallantry and Honor, Honor and Valor.
Spectators in this Shifting scene on
Patriotic state, the people leave
Reluctantly, the Nations Shrine still Pondering.
They wander down the soddy path
They speak in muffled tones, shuffling
Their feet before they exit slowly
Through the Outer Arch.
I saw his name engraved in granite
enlaced with ivy from the nearby tree
I plucked a spring of living ivy
And took it home with me
planted in a pot of earth
upon my window sill
the climbing vine has taken root
and it is greening still
Your body may be buried
you may be long since gone
but cherished memories of you
and your name lives on.
I stepped out of my cabin door
and looked up at the sky
I saw a golden eagle soar
I heard the eagle cry
The eagle soared into the sun
and was soon lost from view
The spirit of the unknown one and you.
Down through the corridor of Time
The eagle sounds its piercing cry
keening over all the fields
where the fallen warriors lie.
Their tattered uniforms and bones
have Mildered in their narrow grave
White crosses bear a name and date
so young and all so brave.
Through countless wars in global spots
they fought in air, on land and sea
They paid the price, they gave their life
so others could be free.
They fought chaotic battles
To victory or defeat
and now they lie in long, long rows
orderly and neat...
A bugle in sunsets glow
is sounding Taps from far away
Soon now the winds of night will blow
And tomorrow is another day.
The Stars and Stripes wave on the ridge
High above Arlington Bridge
in between are stretched the grounds
with all of its heroes earthen mounds
From up high the spirits chide
Forever shall our Flag abide
In Freedom Honor – Valor
by Ruth Mariott (1)
The Sentinel's Last Walk
Millions of visitors to Arlington National Cemetery view the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A ceremony that is seen but by a select few is the Last Walk of a Sentinel. Only fellow Tomb Guards, family, and close friends may attend the last tribute by a sentinel to the Unknowns when the guard has finished his tour of duty at the Tomb. The final ceremony to honor the Unknowns then takes place after the last Changing of the Guard for the day. The guard takes his last walk - has he has hundreds of times before - walks towards and enters the plaza (a), is inspected one last time to ensure the uniform is perfect (b) - perfection is all that can be offered back to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, walks onto the mat in perfectly prepared shoes (c), walks the exact 21 paces in each direction, pauses exactly 21 seconds after each change in direction, and finally passes on his orders to the next guard for the last time (d). After exiting the plaza and returning to the quarters below the plaza, the guard returns with an armful of roses (e) while a bugler stands and watches and waits (f) - roses instead of a rifle, one each for each of the Unknowns (g) - and gently places one at each resting place, followed by a salute. After placing the last rose, there is a final salute while taps is played a last time (h). The sentinel then exits the plaza and walks for the last time back to the quarters below (i), with all attending standing in perfect silence, watching, knowing the guard's service at the Tomb is complete - having done what his country had asked him to do, ended by a final tribute to those who not only gave their lives for their country, but who also gave up their identity.
(1) Ruth Mariott, author of the poem "Arlington" passed away on July 11, 1997, shortly after learning that her poem had been published in the Congressional Record after it was read by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. She received a military funeral with the Old Guard rendering honors. Adapted from information given at the Website: http://www.reddok.com/KC130/arlington.htm