By Staff Sgt. Jennifer C. Johnson, JFHQ-NCR/MDW Public AffairsJune 19, 2014
ARLINGTON, Va. (June 19, 2014) -- Sgt. 1st Class Tanner M. Welch, Sergeant of the Guard, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), participated in his last walk and conducted a rose laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
As a tomb sentinel, the last walk is the last time a sentinel will be on the guard post. It is a time for reflection and remembrance of duty and respect for the Unknowns.
"I have enjoyed seeing the Tomb through rain, sweltering heat, and inches of snow," said Welch. "I have the advantage of being able to be present when there is no one but a lone guard and myself as well as the buzz and hum of thousands of visitors."
The rose laying ceremony gives the sentinel the opportunity to pay their last respects to the Unknowns with a physical gift versus the gift of self. A sentinel lays a single red rose at the white marble sarcophagus above the grave of the World War I Unknown, and then lays other red roses at the crypts of the Unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam that lie directly in front of the sarcophagus.
"It is difficult to explain fully what it means to be a Tomb Guard," said Welch. "There are different meanings based on your point of view. To me, it means doing the best you can every day. We always fall short of our goal, perfection, but we all strive for that goal to the best of our ability."
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in all weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Being a Sentinel is volunteer duty, and is considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
"The last 18 months as the Sergeant of the Guard, have been some of the most profound and life changing months of my adult life," said Welch. "It has truly been an honor to be allowed to go to work each day."
Welch will be reporting to 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. in 2015.