Monday, May 25, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Hmmm, when I was there, I don't remember anyone giving orders. I thought I remembered complete silence. I also thought the soldiers did more maneuvers with their backs to each other. And, I would have sworn the guards were Marines. Anyone have an answer/reply to this? Update on Tuesday: Do I have two different changing of the guards confused????

Prepare to be furious and/or weep.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (in Arlington, VA). The temperature was at least 103 degrees with probably 100 percent humidity. (A thunderstorm was forming.) I was standing at the back of the scant crowd, trying to get my small child into some shade. (The rest of my family was up in the front of the crowd.) A young man (probably a little younger than I was at the time), holding a toddler, was sharing the meager shade.

I was watching, absolutely in awe of the precision of the soldiers. I was in awe of the hours and hours the soldiers had to spend practicing. I was in awe that these soldiers volunteered and considered it an honor to do what I would consider an incredibly boring job. I was in awe that the soldiers would stand out in the heat and sun, pelting rain and lightning, or wind, ice, and snow. I was thinking of the parents who lost their sons and never received their remains or knew for sure what happened to them. I was thinking how quiet our children were being considering how uncomfortable they must have been. (It was almost as if these two little ones knew not to make the slightest whine or squeak.) I was hoping that a day never came when we might have to send our children off to fight a war.

When the changing of the guard was over and the crowd started to disperse, the man said, "What a waste of time." I was absolutely speechless. I couldn't think of one single thing to say to him. All I could do was stand and stare at him.

I have often wondered what would have happened to that man if anyone besides me had heard him say that. I have often wondered what became of that man. (All these years I have been completely disgusted with him and yet pitied him. I have even prayed for him.) I have often wondered what became of that little boy; he'd be 17 or 18 now - just about the right age to join the service. Did the little boy grow up hating the military and/or the US? Or, could he possibly have grown up proud to be an American?


Anonymous said...

Isn't it strange, the things that stick with you? I wonder why that guy thought it was a waste of time? More than likely, he was just miserable because he had to take care of the kid in that heat. Maybe he was pouty because he wanted to stay home?? Either way, what a jerk!

Shay said...

Hey, sweetie; I think you must once have seen a performance of the USMC Silent Drill Team and confused it with the Old Guard at the Tomb. The Tomb so far as I know has always been guarded by members of the US Army.

The Silent Drill Team performs in complete silence (well...yes) at 8th & I and around the country. They do things like toss M1-s (with bayonets) at each other without looking. Some views here:

gemoftheocean said...

Hi, I HOPE it's what motherhen68 said: i.e. it was hot and he was taking care of a pouty kid? But I guess you were right. I think I might have gotten a little confrontational though. at the very least I think I would have said "what makes you say that" with the subtext "go bleep yourself!" Why such people bother to go in the first place is what is amazing. As for the youngster .. sometimes, I think, children of these people CAN turn into ultra patriots, because they are tired of the negativism and it's THEIR way of rebelling!

And yes, Shay is right, it's always been "the Old Guard" -- it's a special honor to be assigned.

They have a nice website here.