2014 Freedom Scholarship Recipient: James Wilson
8 years ago
Recently, we announced the recipients of the 2014 scholarships as selected by our scholarship committee. This year's Freedom Scholarship recipient is James Wilson, brother of Case Wilson (Tomb Guard Identification Badge #547). James is currently enrolled at Sewanee: The University of the South and is majoring in environmental studies with an emphasis on sustainability with a minor in international studies. While most of the submissions were outstanding, his essay really stood out. Here is it in its entirety.
“HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.” Those words inscribed on one of America’s most sacred monuments speak to not only individuals, but to a nation. When my brother first took me to see the Tomb, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is not merely a memorial it is the promise of a nation and her soldiers to serve and defend. I have always respected my brother, but never more so than when I saw him as a Tomb Guard. I believe that my brother became a Tomb Guard to serve a higher calling: to honor the men who had laid down their lives for their country and for their fellow soldiers without any desire for recognition.
It’s been said that “perfect valor is to behave, without witnesses, as one would act were all the world watching.” The men laid to rest in that tomb displayed perfect valor. The actions of those brave men in life may not have been witnessed by the world, but they will forever be remembered by the world. To me the Tomb represents a living history, a story of valor spanning generations. I believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, in large part due to the sacrifice of men like the ones buried in the Tomb. We live in a world where history is fast forgotten. To me the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is our country’s way of saying we will never forget the sacrifices made to make and maintain this nation.
When the Twin Towers fell, it felt as though the world stood still. One thing remained constant: the silent vigil of the Tomb Guards. The Guard still changed and the Tomb remained defended. When Hurricane Sandy hovered above Arlington National Cemetery, the sentinels continued their duties. For me, the Tomb is not simply a monument or a pretty piece of marble; it is America’s dedication past present and future. It is my firm belief that the Tomb and what it stands for will reside in the hearts of this great nation always.
In closing I believe the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the deference of a nation. It is with a humble heart that we who are not soldiers witness the eternal vigil. It is my sincere hope that the Tomb remains a symbol of honor and true valor in a new and ever changing world. We cannot forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country. It is our duty as a nation to support the ones who defend us and to continue supporting our soldiers. As a brother of a Tomb Guard, and as a citizen, I want to thank you all for the dedication and for reminding us that freedom isn’t easy. You help us to remember that we would not be here without soldiers like the men who are buried in that tomb known only to God.
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Did you know?
Has anyone ever tried to get past the Tomb guards, or attempted to deface the Tomb?
Yes, that is the reason why we now guard the Tomb. Back in the early 1920's, we didn't have guards and the Tomb looked much different. It was flat at ground level without the 70 ton marble 'cap'. People often came to the cemetery in those days and a few actually used the Tomb as a picnic area, likely because of the view. Soon after in 1925, they posted a civilian guard. In 1926, a US Army soldier was posted during cemetery hours. On July 1, 1937 guard duty was expanded to the 24 hour watch. Since then, the ceremony has evolved throughout the years to what you see today. Today, most of the challenges faced by the Sentinels are tourists who are speaking too loudly or attempting to get a better picture (by entering the post).