WASHINGTON -- A day of celebration took place honoring the 234 years of service by the 3rd Infantry Regiment (also known as The Old Guard) May 1 with back-to-back ceremonies on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
Hundreds gathered in Conmy Hall for a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of The Old Guard's reactivation. The ceremony included a performance by the U.S. Army Band, The Old Guard, and remarks from 81st Regimental Commander Col. Jason Garkey. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who both previously served with The Old Guard, also provided remarks during the ceremony.
"When we look at the 70th anniversary and look at the significance it is not only to be here as a ceremonial unit but as a response force to defend our seat of government against potential threats," said Garkey.
The Old Guard, the U.S.' oldest active infantry regiment, was reactivated at the outbreak of the Cold War on April 6, 1948 -- when it was seen imperative to protect the capital and national leaders. It also fulfilled the vision of representing the U.S. Army to the rest of the world through performances for the president and foreign dignitaries, or ceremonies of honoring departed service members in Arlington National Cemetery.
Garkey noted that The Old Guard fulfilled its role of defending the homeland on 9/11.
"Unfortunately the attack against the Pentagon resulted in a call to arms, the regiment answered," Garkey said. "We immediately changed from our ceremonial duties to homeland defense. The Old Guard spent over a month providing security, logistics, and medical support in the efforts of recovering from this violent attack."
Following the reactivation ceremony, the crowd gathered across from Summerall Field for the unveiling the new Old Guard monument.
The project for the monument has been spearheaded by retired Col. James Laufenburg, the former commander of the 74th Regimental, who was inspired by what he saw as commander on 9/11.
After his retirement, he worked tirelessly with others over the next 15 years to create a monument to honor the regiment's rich history and continuing service.
"Today I am proud to say and to all of those who have given up their individual time to make this a reality--a job well done. Mission complete," Laufenburg said.
One woman with a critical role in the project was Barbara Mungenast, a sculptor from St. Louis. When considering the project she visited Fort Myer to observe Soldiers and ceremonies in order to understand the essence of the regiment.
"The only guidance I gave Barbra as she parted Fort Myer was to create a piece of art that represents the past, the present, and the future of this regiment," Laufenburg said.
The 12-foot bronze monument depicts three figures that embody The Old Guard -- a saluting noncommissioned officer, a kneeling combat Soldier, and a fifer from The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The flag touches every piece of the memorial--connecting them all together.
"When you look at this monument and think of those years of service each and every one of those contributes to the history of this monument," Garkey said in his remarks in front of the monument. "The pride and heritage we all feel was accurately captured."
"It's a treasure," Col. Kimberly Peeples, JMB-HH commander said about the monument seeing that it captures the spirit of the Army.
"Certainly this monument has been long overdue, and we are thrilled to see it come to fruition. More importantly, we are humbled by what it represents."
The day's events demonstrated how The Old Guard plays an important role in remembering history and ongoing service. Garkey stated that it does not only represent one regiment but the entire Army.
"We serve as a visible reminder of service to our nation for those that visit Washington," he said. "We offer a valuable touch point to remind our citizens of those Soldiers serving in harm's way."
Pentagram Staff Writer Abigail Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.