BIMA Military Personnel Lay Wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns
On the sultry afternoon of June 22, 2010, four military personnel from BIMA gathered at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., for the honor of placing a wreath in front of the tomb. The four BIMA military personnel selected for this solemn task were: Army COL Natalie Jacaruso, Military Deputy; Marine Corps LtCol Thomas Pratt, Chief, Military Operations Branch; and staff members Army MAJ Gwendolyn Nerstad and Army SPC Judson Bender. “It was a great honor to be able to pay tribute to fellow warfighters who lost their lives in service to our nation,” stated COL Jacaruso. Added LtCol Pratt, “Laying a wreath at the gravesite of fallen heroes was a very special and meaningfully experience.”
The BIMA military personnel were accompanied by BIMA Director Dr. Myra Gray, who remarked, “I was very proud to be there with the military staff members representing my organization and honored to be a part of the ceremony.”
A sentinel of the Third U.S. Infantry maintains vigil at the tomb 24 hours a day. The sentinel paces 21 steps alongside the tomb, pauses for 21 seconds and then returns. This vigil is interspersed with changing of the guard and wreath-laying ceremonies.
At 4:13 p.m., the previous wreath was removed from its stand and placed at the back of the tomb in preparation for the impending ceremony. At 4:15 p.m., the sentinel informed those assembled, a group that included other BIMA employees, tourists and older veterans in wheelchairs, that the wreath was being laid by BIMA. The BIMA group moved forward, and COL Jacaruso placed the new wreath on its stand. While a bugler nearby played “Taps,” the four BIMA military personnel stood facing and saluting the tomb. In the forefront, against the white marble backdrop of the tomb, the wreath of red and white carnations interwoven with greenery, baby’s breath and blue ribbon stood with its red, white and blue ribbons cascading and fluttering in the wind.
As the last note of “Taps” faded into the heat of the late afternoon, the BIMA personnel turned about face on the sentinel’s command and walked up the steps of the adjacent Memorial Amphitheater. “It is an experience that I will never forget,” COL Jacaruso remarked. “It was privilege that we all shared and will carry with us. As a combat veteran, this is very personal to me.”
According to the Arlington National Cemetery’s website and informational brochure, the Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, has never been officially named. The first burial was on March 4, 1921, after Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American Soldier from World War I in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater. A white marble sarcophagus was erected on top of the Soldier’s grave, and to the west are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, which are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza. The sarcophagus’s flatfaced panels are decorated with neo-classic columns and Greek figures representing Peace, Victory and War carved in relief and inscribed, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”