William R. Spates Jr.
Tomb PositionCommander of the Relief, Sentinel
Tomb DatesNov 1963 - Nov 1964
Military Dates- Oct 1965
Society MembershipLifetime Member
Home City / StateKensington, MD
ObituarySPATES, Jr., William R., 26, of Kensington, Maryland, was killed in action in South Vietnam on October 25th, 1965. He was born on September 8th, 1939. He enlisted in the United States Army in June 1957. He was a Staff Sergeant. He served in the 48th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Federal Republic of Germany, the 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard), Ft. Myer, Virginia, and the 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, South Vietnam. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Tomb Guard Identification Badge, and Vietnam Ranger Badge.
Memories & Condolences
I wasn't even born when you gave your life for our country and your brothers in arms. I can only hope to be half the man of many of those like you that were lost fighting for future gernerations. Thank you for your service!
I didnt know you. I visited the Tomb a couple of days ago. Watching the very same sacred ceremony that you participated in transformed my life ... it inspired me. I have always loved our country and have tried to be a patriot ... after witnessing this ceremony ... I want to be a better man. Thank You. I too have lost a son ... I know what your parents are trying to live with. May God bless them too. I served in 31B ... Military Police 423 Company 1971-1973
3rd Relief Badge # 156 Springfield KY Went back to Arlington 3 years ago and made it a point to go over to SSG Spates grave with my wife and told her about him wanting to be buried as close to the tomb as possible if he died in Vietnam. I went to his grave many times while at the tomb. Had two brothers who served in Vietnam. Rest easy my fellow Tomb Guard.
What an honor it is just reading your name and reading your accomplishments. I know very little about you, but what I do know, I can honestly say I'm proud to be an American because of you! Thank you for your service, your bravery, your spirit! Thank you for protecting my freedom! Thank you for the sacrifice of your family as well! R.I.P dear William until that day when you and your family meet again!
I am a Sentinel from the eighties, and did 2 1/2 years, mostly on 3rd relief. An going tradition, seemingly extant before I came onto the scene, became an especially favored task by me. Sometime before 0600, someone would harvest a handful of flowers from the many wreathes lined up just off the plaza, from the previous day's wreath ceremonys, waiting to be taken away. The person made a bouquet and took it down to 'Spate's grave' in an informal manner Collective memory of that era taught he had requested burial near his beloved Tomb if he should die in Vietnam. If at all conscious after night-hours, I happily walked the flowers through the dewy grass and said good morning to the SSG. It's amazing what a person can teach...even when they are not alive anymore. Sentinels never forget.
I knew Bill when we both went to Mackin High School in Washington DC. I left my senior year and did not graduate with Bill. However we were very close friends for the 3 yrs I was there. Just happened to look up up his name on Goggle and was proud to see the nice write up on him. He was a great guy and a true friend. I was researching information about my father, Thomas Husdon Jones, who happened to be the sculptor of the Tomb of the Unknown memorial and ran across Bill's name. Proud to see that he is buried within eyesite of the Tomb.
I am so honored to be given the name after my Uncle Bill (William R. Spates, Jr.) from my father James J. Spates (Ret. Army).
We will never forget you! It was an Honor to serve with you.Ps: 121
I have always prided myself on being the Relief Commander of First Relief based on your position as the same. Many times I visited your resting place in ANC. In a gesture of gratitude and respect, I placed flowers at your grave on the day of my last walk. Rest in Peace...you will never be forgotten.
On behalf of your brothers in the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we will never forget your service to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and our Nation, and your sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy. Line 6 - Tomb Guards never forget.
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Units & Campaigns48th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Federal Republic of Germany
Company E (Honor Guard), 3d US Infantry (The Old Guard), Fort Myer
MACV Advisor, 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion, South Vietnam
Awards & DecorationsBronze Star
Army Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award)
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Tomb Guard Identification Badge
Vietnam Ranger 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.