[Congressional Record Volume 145, Number 38 (Wednesday, March 10, 1999)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E390-E391]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                        HON. JOHN J. DUNCAN, JR.

                              of tennessee

                    in the house of representatives

                       Wednesday, March 10, 1999

  Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Speaker, one of the most solemn duties an Army 
Soldier can perform is to protect the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington 
National Cemetery. Those soldiers fortunate enough to serve as honor 
guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns refer to their watch simply as ``the 
  Recently one of my constituents, Staff Sgt. James T. Taylor, 
completed his 785th walk, thus concluding his memorable service as a 
sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
  Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak for the entire Congress when I say 
that our fallen soldiers, both identified and unknown, deserve this 
fitting tribute and recognition at Arlington National Cemetery. They 
also deserve to be guarded by soldiers like Staff Sgt. James T. Taylor 
and other members of the ``Old Guard,'' who are prepared to maker 
personal sacrifices in order to preserve the sanctity and memory of 
their fallen comrades.
  Mr. Speaker, I would like to personally commend Staff Sgt. Taylor on 
his dedicated and meritorious service to this grateful Nation. Our 
country is a better place because of his service.
  Finally Mr. Speaker, I have attached a copy of an article from the 
Pentagram that honors the ``last walk'' of Staff Sgt. Taylor and would 
like to call it to the attention of my colleagues and other readers of 
the Record.

                  [From the Pentagram, Jan. 22, 1999]

   Tomb of the Unknowns Sentinel Makes His Last Walk, Pays His Final 

                          (By Renee McElveen)

       An ice storm the night before left everything encased in 
     crystal, creating a surreal atmosphere.
       The only sounds at that hour were the popping sounds of 
     tree branches breaking off under the weight of the ice, and 
     the measured clicks of metal on marble as Staff Sgt. James T. 
     Taylor's boots traced a precise pattern.
       It was 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 15 in Arlington National Cemetery. 
     Taylor was making his final preparations for what would be 
     his 785th walk, his final walk, as a sentinel. He had a 
     chance to prepare now, before the cemetery opened to the 
     public, and run through one time with others the last-walk 
     ceremony that would mark the end of his tour as an honor 
     guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
       This day was a long time coming for the 32-year-old 
     Tennessee native. He was a materiel storage and handling 
     specialist attending Advanced Individual Training in 1986 at 
     Fort Lee, Va., when his platoon traveled to Washington, D.C., 
     to see the guard-change ceremony at The Tomb of the Unknowns.
       He was so impressed by the ceremony, he asked his platoon 
     sergeant how he could go about becoming a sentinel. At that 
     time, the duty Military Occupational Speciality was limited 
     to Infantrymen. Taylor did not think he could ever become a 
     sentinel since he was serving in a logistics MOS.
       He completed his enlistment in 1988 and left active duty to 
     join the Tennessee National Guard back home. Taylor attended 
     college in Berea, Ky., then transferred to Middle Tennessee 
     State in Murfreesboro, where he earned a bachelor of arts 
     degree in special education in 1993.
       He re-enlisted that same year as an infantryman. Taylor 
     said he decided to go back on active duty because he missed 
     the Army and the camaraderie of military service.
       ``You don't get that anywhere else,'' he explained.
       Taylor was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old 
     Guard) in the Military District of Washington in 1994 and 
     spent a year in Delta Company performing ceremonial duties in 
     the cemetery. He volunteered to become a sentinel for The 
     Tomb of the Unknowns, and was transferred to Hotel Company.
       Taylor then entered an intensive training program for his 
     new assignment. The train-up period for a sentinel is about 
     six months.
       ``It just depends on how quickly a soldier grasps the 
     knowledge and progresses,'' Taylor explained.
       Not only does the sentinel have to learn ``the walk,'' he 
     must become proficient in the manual of arms for the M-14 
     rifle, prepare his uniform to standard, learn a seven-page 
     history of The Tomb of the Unknowns, memorize 150 locations 
     of headstones as well as pages upon pages of facts about the 
     cemetery in ``The Knowledge Book.''
       Some of the facts about the cemetery which the sentinels 
     must memorize are:

[[Page E391]]

       1. Name the caparisoned horse for the funeral of President 
     John F. Kennedy.
       Answer--Black Jack.
       2. How many POWs are buried in Arlington National Cemetery?
       Answer--Three (2 Italian and 1 German).
       3. What is a cenotaph?
       Answer--A headstone erected in memory of someone whose 
     remains are not recoverable.
       The purpose of learning all of these facts about the 
     cemetery is for the sentinel to be able to answer questions 
     during the frequent visitor tours of their quarters below the 
     amphitheater, Taylor said. Also, the sentinels are often 
     stopped on their way to their cars by the tourists and asked 
     about locations of burial sites of famous individuals.
       The Knowledge Book also contains the mission statement of 
     the sentinel, the ``guard of honor'' for the Tomb of the 
     Unknowns. The sentinel is to be responsible ``for maintaining 
     the highest standards and traditions of the U.S. Army and 
     this nation while keeping a constant vigil at this national 
     shrine.'' The sentinels' ``special duty is to prevent any 
     desecration or disrespect directed toward The Tomb of the 
       Sentinels are tested periodically throughout their 
     training, according to Master Sgt. Richard K. Cline, sergeant 
     of the guard for the sentinels. Oral exams are administered 
     at the three-, six-, nine-, and 12-week intervals. Cline said 
     a timed performance exam accompanies these tests. Sentinels 
     must take the test administrator to the headstones of persons 
     named by the administrator and give biographical sketches on 
     the notables within the time allotted.
       In order to ``graduate'' and qualify to wear the Tomb 
     Badge, sentinels must take and pass a written exam, pass a 
     uniform inspection, and demonstrate proficiency in the time-
     honored ritual of maintaining the guard sentinel, referred to 
     simply as ``the walk.''
       Taylor said that he had to learn how to eliminate any 
     bounce whatsoever in his walk, which translates to a 
     technique of rolling the feet in a particular manner. His 
     trainer told him the walk should make people think of the way 
     a ghost might move, drifting along smoothly with no up and 
     down movement.
       In addition, the sentinel's arms must not bend at the 
     elbows during the walk, but instead swing in a straight line 
     like a pendulum on a grandfather clock. The eyes must stay 
     focused straight ahead, ignoring the crowds of tourists, 
     which can number up to 2,000 at a single changing of the 
     guard ceremony during the summer months, Cline said.
       Taylor said it irritates him when soldiers outside The Old 
     Guard tell him he has ``easy duty'' because all he does is 
     ``walk back and forth.'' He says they have no idea of the 
     intensive training involved, the performance standard 
     required in all weather conditions, and the level of 
     commitment sentinels have to their job.
       ``This is probably the greatest honor I ever will have,'' 
     he said.
       Taylor said he has performed his sentinel duty under all 
     types of weather conditions. Snow, sleet, rain, heat, or even 
     thunderstorms do not deter the sentinels from guarding The 
     Tomb of the Unknowns.
       A poem submitted by a visitor (known only as Simon) to The 
     Tomb of the Unknowns in 1971 has since been adopted as ``The 
     Sentinel's 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 element, 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.''
       Sentinels are on duty for 24 hours, then off for 24 hours. 
     During the winter months, sentinels perform two of three 
     hour-long walks each 24-hour period and two hour-long night 
     shifts. During the summer months, sentinels perform six or 
     seven 30-minute walks, and two night shifts.
       Cline said the walks are shortened to 30 minutes during the 
     summer months to accommodate the large number of tourists 
     visiting the MDW area. Shorter walks result in more changing-
     of-the-guard ceremonies, which are a popular tourist 
     attraction at the cemetery.
       Taylor said he has had many memorable moments as a 
     sentinel. Two moments, one very public and one very private, 
     stand out in particular.
       In 1997, he was selected as the presidential wreath bearer 
     for President Bill Clinton during the Veterans Day Ceremony 
     at The Tomb of the Unknowns. Taylor admits he was nervous, 
     but once the National Anthem started playing, he said, ``I 
     felt like a giant out there.''
       The private moment occurred during one of his early morning 
     walks. The only visitor at the cemetery at that hour was a 
     man wearing uniform items from the Vietnam War era. Taylor 
     said the man stood at attention at the end of the plaza near 
     the guard booth, saluting him. The man watched him for the 
     entire hour and appeared to be very emotional, watching him 
     perform his duty.
       ``It was a real moving experience for me,'' Taylor said.
       He said he changed his uniform after his tour, then went 
     back up to the amphitheater to try to find the man so that he 
     could speak with him, but he was already gone.
       While assigned to Hotel Company, Taylor held five positions 
     at The Tomb of the Unknowns. He was a sentinel, an assistant 
     relief commander, a relief commander, an assistant sergeant 
     of the guard and a trainer.
       One of the sentinels he trained, William Q. Hanna, returned 
     for Taylor's last walk. Hanna completed his enlistment in the 
     Army in December. He said he served with Taylor for more than 
     two years, and wanted to be present for his ``special 
       Hanna explained that the last walk is a ``rite of passage'' 
     and an extremely emotional event for a sentinel as he pays 
     his final respects to The Tomb of the Unknowns.
       ``I could hardly get through mine,'' he recalled.
       At 10:45 a.m., Taylor asked Hanna to drive to the Vistors 
     Center to pick up his family and bring them back to the 
     amphitheater. His mother, Sandra S. Taylor of Knoxville, 
     Tenn., had driven 10 hours through the ice storm so that she 
     could be there for his last walk. His father, James L. 
     Taylor, and step-mother, Linda Taylor, of Middlesboro, Ky., 
     had spent nine hours on the road as well.
       While waiting for his final hour-long walk as a sentinel, 
     Taylor made, adjustments to his uniform. He pulled the brim 
     of his Dress Blues service cap down and adjusted it over his 
     eyes, checking his reflection in the mirror. Pfc. Daniel 
     Baccus took a large piece of masking tape and blotted up any 
     stray lint on Taylor's raincoat. Taylor then went to the 
     water fountain and ran water over his white gloves and rubbed 
     them together. The water provides a better grip on the wooden 
     stock of the M-14 rifle.
       At 11 a.m., the bells toiled the hour and Taylor made his 
     way down the marble sidewalk to take his place on the plaza 
     for the last time. Cline inspected his uniform and weapon. 
     The guards were changed, and Taylor spent the next hour 
     guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns.
       At noon, the bells toiled the hour again, Taylor walked to 
     the center of the plaza to retrieve four red roses from his 
     fiancee, standing at the base of the steps.
       He placed one red rose at the base of each of the three 
     crypts, and the fourth rose at the base of the marble tomb. A 
     bugler played ``Taps.'' Taylor saluted. His last walk as a 
     sentinel at The Tomb of the Unknowns was over.