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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Sentinel speaks in St. Joseph

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:15 PM EST
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - People are taking the time to honor those who’ve served our country here in Michiana and across the country.

This year, Veterans Day marks the 100-year anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Three soldiers are buried there, representing those who sacrificed their lives for our country but couldn’t be identified.

Every community has its own special way to honor its veterans, but it’s not every year you get to hear from one of the tomb guards that protected the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

That’s what happened in St. Joseph, where folks not only honored those who went to war, but also those who never returned.

For the first time in nearly 100 years, visitors were allowed to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza during a special event commemorating the monument’s 100th anniversary.

Typically members of the Old Guard are the only ones allowed to walk here, while they stand watch over the memorial honoring those whose lives and names were lost to war.

One of those guards shared his stories with folks in St. Joseph during their Veterans Day ceremony.

“Veteran’s Day and then honor flights were always a big one. So, anytime we could have former veterans there to honor the tomb, to me that was just a special moment. To see World War II veterans standing up out of a wheelchair just to salute during Taps, it just kind of brings chills to you,” said Former Sentinel Stuart Aspinall.

Sentinel is the official title for tomb guards and it’s a role that takes more than a year to train for.

“You’re a three-time volunteer. You volunteer for the Army. Then you volunteer for the Old Guard which is the unit that the tomb reports up to, and then you volunteer to be a tomb guard. Then the process to become a Sentinel is about a 9-12 month training process. It involves testing throughout. Most people take four different tests,” Aspinall said.

All that training to work 24-hour shifts, even in the pouring rain or driving snow. Aspinall says it’s all worth it.

“To me it’s the highest honor I can do to honor those who’ve served before and will serve after me. When I think about what the mission of the Old Guard is, the tomb itself is the highest standard to that,” he said.

Defending the monument that gives an identity to those who gave theirs up fighting for the United States.

Aspinall served at the Tomb between 2018 and 2020. The typical tour for a Sentinel is roughly 18 months.

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