I am a color guard and have done over 300 funerals in the Arlington National Cemetery AMA
EDIT: Thank you for the gold!!!! EDIT 2: I never expected this would get this much attention. Thank you all and I really appreciate the platinum!!
Thank you for volunteering and everything you do. Your job is truly unique. Two questions: 1) Of the service members' funerals you supported which story sticks with you most? 2) How many hours per day do you spend maintaining your uniform?
There was a Green Beret that we performed a funeral for earlier this year, I’m not sure if it was that his entire squad of fellow Green Berets showed up for the funeral or that we took the most time of any funeral I have ever done but that one sticks with me. Along side another funeral we performed where a small child was present however he did not know the full extent of what a funeral was. It wasn’t until he saw the casket laid onto the grave site that he realized and began to cry.
Recently I have not had to do much maintenance to my uniform as in the winter we don’t sweat much. So probably about 30 minutes to an hour. But in the summer it can take 1-2 hours if not more considering the skill of the person
Any plans or desire to deploy? I went to Old Guard after basic as well in 05 and was there for two years. I reenlisted to get out when chatter was going around that Ft Irwin was going to deploy and spent a year there then went to Germany for two years before finally deploying to butt fuck Afghanistan.
There's a place in my heart for Old Guard but I fucking hated it there because that isn't the way I wanted my career to start.
What kind of things are being done at funerals to account for COVID? I can't imagine they see it to be a great idea to hand off a flag to a widow that a dozen or more people have been wrapped around for the past hour.
What's your job and how bad do you wish you were full honors firing party? That's where I was and I gotta tell ya, sitting on the bus watching everyone else stand outside the chapel was nearly therapeutic on a bad day.
First of all... why you gotta do me like that lol. I enjoy colors but I do envy the firing party. I am not sure what specific precautions are taken in the cemetery lately however we do have ceremonial masks.
If I could deploy and fight with those that we bury I would be on the plane yesterday.
I was there last December for my grandfather's service. It is hard to phrase the compliment I want to pay but you all were awesome.
During a quiet part of the service a pin fell from one of the guards. I heard it and enjoyed watching him make eye contact with a few others there. I think someone else stealthily nabbed it before the procession, my memories are kind of a blur.
Is there a reprimand when something like this happens? I hope it wasn't bad, the dude felt terrible, you could see it.
Be proud of what you do, it was an honor for us to see it.
Thank you. There is not a punishment in most cases. Things happen and leadership acknowledges that
What are 3 things you like about your job and 3 things you dislike?
Being from a small town in Georgia living near DC is pretty cool. Also this job allows me to move up in rank rather quickly and we have better work hours than other infantry units.
I dislike the fact that all of our ceremonial uniforms are made of thick cotton and paired with 100+ degree heat makes marching in the summer a pain. Our barracks are over 100 years old and we must act with “the upmost of discipline” as my base is home to many high ranking officers.
Myself and a couple other guys in our battalion were selected to go Old Guard, but of the 5-8 of us they only picked one, who wasn't me. I always wondered how my life would have been different had I gotten in. I did 2 tours in the Middle East instead -_-. Hopefully you've enjoyed your position, what's the biggest perk in your opinon, biggest con?
Biggest perk: promotions are easier Biggest con: the barracks suck lol
Does the feeling of sadness doing hundreds of funerals get easier over time?
As bad as it sounds to say yes it does. I’ve been to a family members funeral after being here and felt almost nothing. I still felt completely destroyed at the fact that he died but the funeral itself did not make me feel any differently
What is a standard day for you like?
On primary it would be -0530 first call -0745 fallout for mission -0900 first mission -1100 second mission -1300 third mission -1500 fourth mission Times may vary depending on the number of missions for the day Off primary it’s -0530 first call -0600 first form -0630 PT -rest of the day depends on what is relevant at the time
Have you ever guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Like an Army Sentinel?
The Tomb is guarded by very dedicated Tomb Guards who can only make sentinel after becoming experts in every area of the cemetery and the Tomb. However I am a colors guard and we do perform wreath ceremonies on the Tomb.
My wife’s grandfather is a retired LTG going into Arlington one day. What’s that gonna be like? Pretty impressive I would think.
It will be a full honors funeral on a plot of land specifically for Generals with a two platoon escort element a colors team a firing party and the firing of cannons.
Does Arlington use a live bugler or one of those prerecorded horns that look like a live bugler?
I’ve never seen where the music comes from so I could not tell you however the national band is stationed here so there may be a good chance it is a live bugler.
My grandfather was in the Old Guard during the Kennedy Administration!
Have you seen the movie Gardens of Stone? How accurately does it depict the Old Guard?
Much appreciation to your grandfather.
I have heard of the movie but have not seen it so I couldn’t give a comparison.
Former Honor Guard member on an Air Force base here.
When waiting to start the ceremony does your team engage in light hearted or even inappropriate talk? I know we did l lol
It’s an infantry unit in the army. You tell me lol.
Did you have to apply for the position? What was that like?
I was sent here directly after Basic Training. I did not sign up to come here but I do my job to the best of my ability. If this is where my country needs me then this is what I will do.
Have you ever failed a uniform inspection? What’s that like?
I have not but that’s mostly due to the fact that if I did I would be at work as long as it took to make the uniform absolutely perfect down to the centimeter. Even if it takes untill the next duty day
How do "Ceremonial" military units differ from standard ones? Should more people who enlist consider them?
The major difference is the job. In essence a military unit will operate similarly to any other no matter the location. I believe you should do the job you want and you should consider all before making a decision.
Have you gone in some military mission due to more demand of soldiers?
I have been here since basic training and never been deployed if that’s what your asking
Do tourists ever interfere with funerals at the cemetery? If so, any stories you’d share?
I’ve heard of things like that happening but it is very rare and I have not experienced it.
Do they have you do any actual infantry training when you're not on mission?
There are times where we will do tactical training. We must be capable of both ceremonial affairs as well as being capable soldiers in the case that DC was under attack.
What was the hardest part of becoming an Old Guard?
Standing completely still in 90 degree heat for two hours in full dress uniform while doing rifle manual
Just what are you allowed or not allowed to say if given "permission to speak freely?"
Well telling any form of leadership to f*ck off wouldn’t go very well lol Other than that we can speak freely in most occasions
Here’s something I’ve always wondered, are the rifles you guys carry loaded? I’ve always thought their just ceremonial and unloaded because there are a lot of civilians about, but I could be wrong
They are unloaded except for the firing party who carry blanks
What do you appreciate the most out of your day?
I appreciate the people I work with. Many units are hard on soldiers and there are accounts of hazing however in this unit that does not happen very often
Have you ever done a funeral for a MOH recipient?
No I have not but the day I do I will run 10 miles in respect.
What's the worst thing about daily life in the US military that in your opinion could be changed ?
It’s honestly not that bad for the most part but if I had to say. I wish every defac in the military was ran by the Air Force
What’s your favorite thing to do? Both at work and outside work
I like naps. Whenever I can get them. Lol
What’s a better deal the Wendy’s 4 for 4 or the Burger King’s 5 for 5?
Cafe Rio half off military Monday ;)
How long does a post in the guard at Arlington usually last? A year?
My term here should complete my three year contract
What do you do to prevent passing out from heat stroke?
Hydrate and eat a heavy meal the night before with an adequate breakfast
Do the DS at sand hill still make you carry all your stuff if you forget to lock your locker?
Step one fill mop bucket Step two fill sand bags Step three pour and bags into mop bucket Step four dump on floor and clean
The bot removed this as I guess I didn’t use a ? I asked if you were working on May 7th for the 1pm services? We buried My stepmother Lt Colonel Patrica Blake w my dad in section 68
I was not working but I am sorry for your loss
Are you still doing ceremonies during the pandemic?
Ceremonial affairs continue however only for standards. As I am full honors I do not
You Vs the guys outside her majesty's palace. Who wins?
Hmmm in what contexts
Thank you for your service. What kind of emotional toll has this job had on you?
Thank you. Not much of a toll. Just very numb to things that would make people sad
Hey I'm not sure if you're still answering questions but I figured I'd try.
My father was a guard at Arlington in the 80s. He was actually one of the guards who helped transport one of the last Vietnam Unknown Soldiers from Hawaii.
He died in 2003, and I haven't been able to find any records of his service from that era. I dont think I've been looking down the right avenues though. Any tips?
I’m not too sure how to find him but if I were you I would start by trying to find any official DOD files with his last name and dig from there
Do you also play gay chicken with your comrades or is that just a Navy/marine thing?
I’ve seen two guys full on make out playing that
What made you want to join the military?
A list of things mostly just wanted to get out of my small town
I'm sorry, as someone who is relatively unfamiliar with the military, what is a color guard and what do you do exactly? (I tried looking through comments but I couldn't find an exact answer)
Color guards are in a colors team with a colors NCO and a battalion flag holder. The colors NCO holds the National Flag and the guards are on either side of them with rifles
How long will you serve at that post? And will you be able to pick your next duty station?
Yes I will be able to pick my next station if I reenlist. I will serve a total of three years here
As someone who was in my base honor guard, thank you for what you do. After your tour with the old guard, do you think you will visit other honor guard units and teach them some of the things you know? Or instil in them the reverence that you may have?
Not sure how the army is, but I'm in the air force so things might be slightly different. We had someone come to my base that had the honor of being in the DC honor guard for the air force, he really helped out! Thanks for what you do brother.
Thank you for what you do as well. And if I find any honor guard units I’ll do my best to show them everything I know
First off, thank you for your service! Do you do ceremonies only at Arlington, or do they send you to other services in the area as well? My buddy does color guard in a state for police deaths, and they have a special challenge coin, do you as well?
I have not gotten a challenge coin yet. As colors we do funerals, flag missions for political meetings and the like. As well as wreath ceremonies and retirement ceremonies.
Former 3rd platoon 4/3 Honor Guard and Continental Colour Guard here. Did you have to get this thread approved by leadership or did you just decide to do it yourself?
I just did it. But I make sure to keep my answers worded so that I don’t violate any OPSEC
Longest present arms? I think I had a 6 and a half minute National Anthem. The singer thought it'd be cute to audition for American Idol during some business awards ceremony. The Army National holder actually shouted "WRAP IT UP!!!"
Air Force Honor Guard (2005-2010), 11th Wing, Bolling AFB (now Anacostia-Bolling Joint Base), DC.
Probably about that long during ROP
I have a 2 part question:
Do you believe in ghosts?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
1yes 2i believe so
Thanks for your service. Arlington is literally my favorite place in the United States. I can walk there for hours and just feel at peace, all while feeling patriotic and shit. What can you tell me about Arlington that most people wouldn't know?
edit can you hook a brother up with anything? :D
What are you looking to know? I’ll try my best to help ya out man
Hey! Thanks for the AMA! My nephew want's to go to west point and join the 3rd infantry old guard, any advice for him?
I’m not an officer so I can’t give him much if any advice in that regard. But if he does come here he shouldn’t have many problems. He will most likely learn sword and saber and be in charge of a platoon
Awesome thread dude. What are your career goals after your term is up?
Not sure yet atm I’m just focused on my career in the army
Do you ever get jealous of the New Guard? You guys get all the old uniforms and equipment and they get all the nice new stuff?
We plan to sneak in at midnight. Do we go for the uniforms? No we go for the edge dressing. It’s priceless
What MOS did you enlist as? What is your rank now?
11B And I’m a boot ass PFC lol
Former soldier here.
What are your day to day routine? Do you guys still do PT? What's the housing situation? Do you guys have a DFAC? Can you go to sick call?
We can go to sick call, our defac is shit lol. PT is okay 5 mile runs 8+ mile rucks etc, Our barracks suck worse than you’d think.
Why did you want to be a color guard?
I didn’t really ask to be one they put me in colors squad and I was good at it so here I am
You said you for automatically assigned there after basic training. Is that assignment how you will spend the remainder of your military career or do you serve in it for a number of months at a time?
I’ll be here u till my first three year contract ends then I will most likely PCS to somewhere else
Can you tell us about Day Zero/initiation/the overall training experience?
I heard that the day zero selection process can be a bit brutal.
It wasn’t too bad but I had been training for the army for a while
Would you rather be assigned to Caisson platoon? Taking care of horses as part of a job while also being apart of service members last ride must be a whole other experience.
I have thought about it an I might in the future
How’s it feel to wish you were Caskets? Lol.
The rivalry will never end. Just like the caskets teams will never pass height and weight
Thank you for what you do.
Just curious, is there a reason that family members can't keep spent casings from the salute? Is it some kinda health hazard or something?
I wasn’t aware that was a particular rule. It’s never come to my attention
I know that to be a guard for the Tomb of the unknown Soldier has a bunch of crazy rules, like never allowed to drink even off duty until you're contract with them is complete (or something along those lines at least, also this was the only one I could remember lol). Does the old guard have any crazy rules that out of the Norm for other soldiers? I was an 89B and we had an E6 who used to do it and would always tell us about crazy rules that always had to be followed.
I don’t know if it that crazy but your not supposed to spit in uniform. And if you spit in the cemetery...God help your soul.
My dad's buried there. He was going to be cremated until he learned that you could not have the full caisson service if you were cremated (and he was super stoked for the caisson ride, which strikes me as humorous). Any idea why ANC limits the service for cremation interments?
I am not sure however every funeral I’ve done has involved caisson. They have also been full honors funerals and many of them have been cremates.
What ceremony holds the highest honor? For the 3rd or for you personally.
I honestly couldn’t name just one Between a Tomb Sentinels final walk Any funeral A wreath ceremony These are things you can’t exactly measure
I mean I’m probably not the best looking lol
And I haven’t decided yet
When I went through PLDC, we had 10 or 15 of you guys from 3rd ID.
I remember those first couple of formations where the platoon leaders would put you tall beautiful men right there up front. But, what we found was that y'all have altered your pace. You can't put you guys in front of the formation if you want to get there today.
And, you guys click when you walk.
And, trying to call manual of arms is whack because you guys do it at a different pace and there're those two guys in the formation who are all, "Bro, I drill with a musket. What's Present Arms with this thing, again?"
I thank god I don’t wear a powdered wig and drill a musket every day. But yea we do things a lot slower
Wow, as a non-military person, the jargon & abbreviations alone make a lot of this language hard to follow.
Questions - Have you ever been upset to see a person/ people die for any reasons? (ie political disagreement over a mission, a screw up, a cover up, etc?)
Do you think there's any scenario where it would be right not to follow orders?
Do you think everyone should have to serve in the military?
When you hear USA has a military budget bigger than next biggest 10 countries combined, does that make you have any concerns?
Thanks for your service
Personally I believe that everyone is going to inevitably die one day and the time of death is simply down to circumstance. Even though it may be horrible to put it this way to some I have known many people that in my opinion died too early. But that is just how the world works
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 90 states that military personnel need to obey the "lawful orders of his/her superior.
I believe the military is for certain people however aspects of it would benefit the vast majority
What do you think of the Pentagon releasing those UFO videos? Have you heard anything about it during your service. What is the general consensus about them?
Hi early they haven’t been talked about that much I think it’s cool but it’s just a UFO as far as I can tell it doesn’t confirm aliens
You said you didn't have a choice and that this is a branch of the Army; you get a choice as to where you would like to be sent when you enlist. How did you get forced into your position?
You get a choice of what MOS you get but you don’t get to chose your duty station.
Do you find your interests turned darker after your assignment? Are your jokes more macabre? Do you watch horror movies more? Do you relax to some Cannibal Corpse?
I will say I like cannibal corpse more than I used to
Why do the Arlington guards move different than other military troops in formation? Their feet during facing movements are completely unique. It's perplexed me for years, thought you might know. Thanks.
It’s different because of our place in ceremonial affairs. It is meant to differentiate us from the rest of the army so that people know who we are. It is also how movements used to be performed before they were changed
Do you truly believe I'm your cause? Personally I think since WW2 the US has started and gotten involved in wars over money, power and oil and in the process ruining countless lives.
I do not care about politics. I care about people.
Have you gone on a real deployment before? If no, do you feel like, idk, a weird sense of yeah I'm doing something important but somewhat unfulfilled because you've never lived your MOS? I might have a hard time with that.
I feel that every day and If I could be deployed tomorrow I’d already be packed
Have you had the Whooperito?
Whats your favorite part of the job.
Do yall have medics assigned to the platoon or is it jist in your HHC or not at all?
Never had it
The people I work with
We have assigned medics but they work in the aid station
Is alcohol prohibited while your in the old guard? I read online it was but, I didn’t know if it was bullshi!.
It is if you are a Tomb Guard. However it is allowed in the rest of the regiment. In fact our express is about 80% liquor store
Are you my cousin.....?? If you are you’ll know we went to basic around the same time.
Don’t think so man
How do you like living on JBMHH?
It’s not bad. But at first it was intimidating being around so many high ranking people
You expect to PCS to a line unit or are you color guard until you ETS?
I will be here untill I ETS but I might reenlist and PCS to another station
Is joining the military worth it?
If you can go without seeing family for long periods of time I would say absolutely
How’s Ft. Myer? Drove around the other day... barracks look pretty nice and the commissary/PX are pretty damn big for such a small post.
It’s cool here but the barracks are actually pretty bad lol the px is okay but FT Belvoir is better
I was TOG '01-'05. HHC medic. Is the mural still up in the Aid Station and are our pics still up inside?
I don’t remember. I haven’t been to the aid station in a long time
If I was in bootcamp & beat up all the drill sergeants would I be penalized?
Good luck with that one bud
Have you ever had to bury a foreign soldier? E.g. British, canadian etc.
No I have not
How long does it take to dress up the uniform and get everything right?
I’ve gotten to where I can be in full dress in about 15 minutes
I have a question, we have a veteran friend who just passed and is waiting to be buried at Arlington National until "space becomes available." Can you help me understand this? Thnx
The cemetery is filling up rapidly and they are expanding it to provide more room
My grandpa (and uncle here shortly) is buried there. Don’t you have to be cremated? My wife is Muslim and wondered what happened to Muslim soldier since they can’t be cremated.
You do not have to be cremated and the funeral will be performed in line with the soldiers religious beliefs
I’m not too familiar with the US army. But did you have to go through active combat and if yes how was your transition from active combat to an old guard?
I haven’t had to go through combat but I wish I was deployed
I'm an AROTC cadet and I'll be attending a funeral in August, but for a Navy officer. Do the different branches have different procedures?
Yes but I’m not knowledgeable on any other branch
This is really neat.
If you were interested, could you be able to join the Honor Guard in the future from this position?
I wear the honor guard patch on my ceremonials and on my OCPs however honor guard is Alpha CO and I am not tall enough to be in Fourth Battalion (don’t really want to either)
Thank you Brother for being at the last muster of our fallen. From your user name are you also in the RAC?
Much appreciated. And no I am not it’s just my old Xbox gamer tag
What do you think about the portrayal of military service in entertainment?
Most of it isn’t very accurate but it is still entertaining
Do you know one of my best friends John Meholick? He works there too!
Never heard of him but I’ll keep an eye out