Memorial Day will be celebrated on May 31 this year and, once again, it will be defined as the unofficial beginning of summer — a time for raucous parties and barbecues and the opening of beaches, pools and amusement parks. Have fun, is the motto. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you take the time to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday.
It’s a day to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives to protect our lives.
In fact, May is Military Appreciation Month remembering Loyalty Day on May 1, VE Day on May 8, Armed Forces Day on May 15 and Memorial Day on the 31st. And this year it presages the celebration come November of the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sergeant Major Gavin McIlvenna served in the U.S. Army over a period of 23 years, including distinguished service as a sniper team leader and operations sergeant major in Iraq, Bosnia, Baghdad and Africa. He also was an Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Fewer than 700 soldiers have served as Honor Guards at the Tomb since it was dedicated on November 11, 1921.
You don’t hear much about the Tomb or about the Honor Guards, so McIlvenna, along with three fellow guards, created the Society of the Honor Guard in part to “continue to serve as we did at the tomb” by creating a group dedicated to spreading its history.
In a recent interview published in the monthly magazine of the American Legion he put it this way: “this tomb is not just a big piece of marble, or as some have described it, ‘a rock.’ There is an unknown American resting under the tomb and in each of the crypts. Each one represents so much more than conflict; they represent the heart of America and what it truly means to serve and sacrifice for others. I look back fondly on my time at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and like most former tomb guards wish I could be there again standing watch.”
A complete list of the Unknown Soldier events taking place between now and November can be found at https://tombguard.org/assets/images/news/TUS100-List-of-Events-as-of-050521.pdf.
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