November 10, 2017

Paying Tribute to our Vets

The most important thing that any of us can do this weekend is reach out and thank a veteran for his or her service. I always make it a point to visit or speak with my former neighbor, Jim Kenefick on Veterans Day. For the first fifteen years that I lived across the street from Jim I had no idea that he was a combat veteran. Soon after his graduation from Niagara University, Jim was sent to officers’ training school and then deployed to Korea. Almost immediately after he arrived, Jim’s regiment came under heavy fire. It took over a week for Jim to lead his men to safety and they endured many casualties. Like most members of the greatest generation Jim chooses not to talk about his heroism- he was just doing his duty.

So, a thankful shout-out to Jim and all who have served.

Some interesting statistics about our 20 Million veterans:

  • 2 million veterans are women.
  • 2 million veterans served during the Korean War
  • 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
  • 5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War (astounding).
  • Over 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about are still alive.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the most powerful symbols of veterans’ sacrifice is the Tomb of the Unknowns, honoring combatants who not only gave their lives for their country but also their identity. The soldiers’ remains are never returned home and families are never sure how their loved one died or even if their loved one is still alive.

If you haven’t already visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery you need to put it on your “must see” list.

Three soldiers representing the unknowns of World War I, World War II, and Korea are interred at the tomb.  A Vietnam veteran was interred at the tomb in 1984 however he was removed in 1998. Due to advances in DNA testing, his remains were exhumed and he was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. The Blassie family had his remains moved to a cemetery in St Louis. Instead of replacing Lt. Blassie, a new cover was placed on the Vietnam crypt, bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

The guards who watch over the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are held to the most rigorous possible standards. In addition to being tested on weapons, military bearing and uniform preparation, applicants must memorize 35 pages on the history of the tomb. The badge earned by the tomb guards is the second least awarded badge in the military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Only four woman have served in this position (there are currently 400 active or retired tomb guards). It’s unclear from my research why so few women have applied for the assignment.

Truth versus Fiction

When my family and I visited the tomb 15 years ago, I was astounded by the guide book’s details on the stringent requirements placed on tomb guards. This week, I did some research to check the veracity of the book.

  • “Applicants for guard duty must be between 5′ 10″ and 6′ 2″ tall with a waist size that cannot exceed 30.” My research indicates that the maximum height for a guard is 6’4 and waist size “must be proportional to height”. Women must be a minimum of 5’8.
  • “Guards must spend eight hours pressing and preparing their uniform before duty”. This turns out to be an exaggeration- It’s only five   hours!
  • Another stringent requirement was that guards must abstain from alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. It turns out that this is a myth and somewhere a couple of ex-guards are playing beer pong.
  • The final requirement that stunned me fifteen years ago was that guards cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives. It turns out this is also a myth and so ex-guards are free to play golf or raise children.


Again, thanks to all who served and have a great weekend.


Ted Curtin

Black Dot Messaging