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January 11, 2002
Tomb of the Unknowns awards 500th Tomb Guard Identification Badge
by Sgt. Jamelle Colbert
|Photo by Spc. Tony Knouf
Sgt. Jason Griffin, right, performs his first guard change after receiving his Tomb Guard Identification Badge. Cpl. Richard McCulloch is the assistant sergeant of the guard.
Old Guard Public Affairs
The legacy of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier reached a historic milestone as the 500th tomb sentinel earned his Tomb Guard Identification Badge Jan. 4.
"This marks a special day, for two reasons," said Col. James F. Laufenburg, the Old Guard regimental commander. "This marks a significant milestone, that is well-earned for a deserving soldier, and second this is the 500th badge to be awarded in 44 years."
Presentations, awards and recognition for Sgt. Jason Griffin were presented at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony attended by Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson, the Military District of Washington's commanding general.
"The tomb sentinels are the most visible soldiers in our Army to the American public," said Jackson. "Over 4 million visitors a year, to include foreign diplomats and dignitaries, are exposed to these soldiers whose level of discipline and dedication to detail is remarkable."
Despite the accolades, Griffin maintains the honor belongs to the Tomb, not to himself.
"I'm no different, it's just a milestone for the Tomb. When someone comes to pay their respects...[at the tomb]...they see us as the representatives of the Army for the United States, I just happen to be representative number 500," said Griffin.
Griffin took his first public walk the day after the attack on America.
"I was very curious to know what was going on outside the cemetery," said Griffin. "I carried a lot of emotion with me at that time. When we were out there it was like we were paying respects to those who died in New York and at the Pentagon.
"Right now I just want to serve honorably as a Tomb Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns," Griffin said "I've wanted to be here since high school. I tried coming here as my first assignment. It didn't work out then, but I finally got here."
Griffin's short term goal includes completing college and earning his Expert Infantryman's Badge in March.
The ceremony was also attended by former Tomb sentinels Neale Cosby, Richard Azzaro, and Charles Shacochis.
"Being here...[at the tomb] expresses an intense commitment that has not been broken in 44 years," said Azzaro.
"We are all still very much involved with the Tomb of the Unknowns and we are proud to have been a part of this," said Azzaro. "Our involvement here has carried us a long way...you don't fully appreciate it until you come back and see the polished look that's been added. The dedication the troops posses is the same as it was when we were here," continued Azzaro.
"These men are just as intense as we were and you still get that same chill watching them, that has never changed," said Azarro. "By the way, we don't refer to ourselves as former Tomb Guards, we are Tomb Guards who no longer walk."
Since Jan. 7, 1958 only 500 identification badges have been awarded. It is believed that the Tomb Guard Identification Badge is the second least awarded badge in the United States Army second only to the Astronaut badge.
The Tomb Guard Identification Badge is also the only badge known to be revoked even after leaving active duty military service. There have been nine badge revocations since its origination in 1958. Badges can be revoked for a number of reasons. They are primarily revoked for bringing dishonor upon the tomb.