Monday, May 27, 2013


May 27, 2013


Arlington, Virginia (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy, accompanied by 2 1/2 year old John F. Kennedy, Jr. attended his last Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1963, 50 years ago this week.

The President laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and also paid his respects at the grave of the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal*.

       JFK at Arlington National Cemetery
                 Memorial Day Observances
                              May 30, 1963
                   Photo by Cecil Stoughton
                          JFK Library Image

The Tomb of the Unknowns contains the remains of unknown American soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.

                   Tomb of the Unknowns
             Arlington National Cemetery
                 Photo by Raul654 (2004)

The Tomb is guarded 24/7 every day of the year by members of the United States Army 3rd Infantry Division.

The main tomb has the following inscription:

"Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."

            Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
            Arlington National Cemetery

*James Forrestal (1892-1949) was born in Matteawan, New York.  He was educated at Dartmouth College and Princeton where he was voted 'Most Likely to Succeed.'

Forrestal was a naval aviator in WWI and became FDR's administrative assistant in 1940.  He later served as undersecretary of the Navy and was appointed the 1st secretary of the newly christened DEFENSE DEPARTMENT by Harry S Truman.

JF died from a fall from his room in the high tower of Bethesda Medical Center where he was undergoing treatment for mental depression.

                              James Forrestal
                        1st Defense Secretary


On the front page of today's NEWS-SENTINEL there is an article about a Knoxville man, Brian Murphy, who was a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in 1992 and 1993.  

The article, written by Fred Brown, says...

"Guards walk along a rubber mat in front of the tomb.  They take a measured 21 steps in 21 seconds, stop and return down the mat for another 21 steps in 21 seconds."

Fred Brown writes that the guards work shifts of 24 hours but take a day off in between.  In winter they guard 1 hour, have an hour off, and then return.  In the summer that is reduced to 30 minutes because of the heat.

Mr. Brown's article concludes with these words from Brian Murphy...

"Being a guard was a great honor for me.  I just feel proud and blessed.  Looking back on it all and reflecting is humbling."


"Pride, perfection at storied monument," by Fred Brown, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 27, 2013.