Lloyd N. (Neale) Cosby
Tomb PositionPlatoon Leader
Highest Military RankColonel (Retired)
Tomb DatesDec 1958 - Jul 1960
Military DatesSep 1955 - Jul 1985
Home City / StateLancaster, KY
Current City / StateAlexandria, VA
Tomb Reflections“Fifty plus years ago, I was the platoon leader of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. One day I was standing on the plaza inspecting a guard change when a little old lady asked me the usual set of questions.
” ‘Are there guards here at night?’ Answer: yes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And it has been so since 1936. Every second of every minute, of every day – rain, shine, snow, sleet, a guard is here day and night.
“Then she asked how are the guards selected? I cited high character requirements for duty at the Tomb. In short, I told her that they must be good soldiers and good citizens.
“Following the guard change, she came back with more questions. She was persistent. I can still see her face today. She asked: ‘Do the guards like the duty here?’ I said, ‘Yes. They feel it is an honor to continuously render, in their own small soldierly way, this nation’s highest honors to the Unknown Soldier.’
“She said ‘What do you mean?’ I explained that the highest honor that this country renders to anyone is a 21-gun salute. The President gets a 21-gun salute. And then I told her that this is what this lone sentinel is doing, continuously. Then I pointed to the sentinel on the mat. In a whisper, I counted 21 seconds as he paused at each facing movement — one thousand one, one thousand two and so on. I counted the steps as he crossed the mat from one side of the Tomb to the other, always keeping an eye on the Tomb and keeping his body between the Tomb and the weapon he carries. Thus rendering the highest honors with his 21-count, continuously.
“At the end, she began to cry and she said, ‘You may wonder why I’m asking these questions, but you see, I have a personal interest here. This is the only place I have to pay my respects to my son who did not return from the war.’
With that she departed leaving me touched for life and forever answering the question of WHY WE GUARD THE TOMB”
Memories & Condolences
My thoughts and prayers go out to all of your friends and loved ones. I didn't know you personally but, I know that you were a good man and a mentor to my Dad (Gavin) and an amazing friend to my mother(Amy). I have heard many great things about you. Rest in peace.
Thank you for your years of dedicated service to this nation COL Cosby. You were an incredible mentor, leader, and I'm proud to say my friend. You and Dot's hospitality to our family will never be forgotten. As a young NCO you imparted many lessons on me when we were creating the Society, many that I continue to use today. Amy and I will miss you dearly, but we will never forget! RIP dear friend, we have the watch.
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Units & Campaigns1st Cav Division
7th Infantry Division
3rd Infantry Regiment
ROTC University of Iowa
MACV Vietnam Advisory
Naval War College
Infantry Branch OPO
101st Airborne Division - Vietnam
Army Staff - Pentagon
Army War College
TRADOC - Fort Monroe
Army Research Insitute
Awards & DecorationsAirborne Wings
Legion of Merit (2)
Expert Infantryman Badge
Combat Infantryman Badge
Tomb Guard Identification Badge
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Did you know?
How long does the Sentinel hesitate after the facing movement to begin the return walk? Is the rifle carried on the same shoulder all the time?
The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the the Guard Change ceremony begins.