Thank you to alum Joanna Reagan (DC: 1972-1986) for sharing the great information and reflection below regarding the 2021 Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Joanna is the perfect example of staying engaged even after retirement.
November 11, 2021 marked the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Patriotic ceremonies and testimonies were conducted for two years leading up to the anniversary of the internment of the Unknown Soldier. You can go to tombguard.org to read some of the entries. Two of my favorites are from the granddaughter of a Tuskegee Airman and on the Sister Stones. They are worth your time.
Having retired to Texas 17 years ago, I still find it a difficult adjustment and need to find an interest to fill my time. Politics has proved bruising, too bruising. However, I followed my dad’s interest in history and joined the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), where I serve as the Constitution Chair and Commemorative Events Chair as well as Chapter Regent of one of the oldest and largest chapters in the state. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed it all. Three years ago, I launched into events around women’s suffrage and had a great time studying and organizing around the 100th anniversary of women finally achieving the vote.
This past year, I became really involved in commemorating the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The DAR joined in observing this significant anniversary with The Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the American Rose Society. One of the ceremonies suggested by the Honor Guard was to plant a Never Forget Garden. I live in Tyler, Texas, known locally as the Rose Capital of the World. We have the largest municipal rose garden in the nation with 35,000 varieties of roses. In Kennedy staff fashion, I planted TWO white rose gardens. One was at the local veterans center, Camp V, and the other was planted in the Rose Garden by the Parks Superintendent and his crew. This beautiful rose garden is Tyler’s top tourist draw with thousands of visitors, garden club tours, and an annual Rose Festival. We held Veterans Day events in both locations.
Leading up to the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery hosted a series of high teas. They conducted a tour of the memorial, then had a speaker from the Honor Guard at the high tea, a visit to the Tomb for the Changing of The Guard and a tour of the Museum and Amphitheater conducted by the Senior Historian for Arlington National Cemetery.
As it happened, I had a wedding in DC the same weekend as the final Women’s Memorial Tea. I was so happy to catch a drink and dinner with Labor Girl, Liz Smith and alum, Tom Lopach. (DC: 1999-2007) I had to see old friends and catch up on politics in DC! I had also arranged for Kennedy Alums Connie Lambert (DC: 1975-1990) and Robin Buckley (DC: 1984-1990) to go with me to the Women’s Memorial High Tea. It was significant to Connie and me because we had liaised with Arlington Cemetery when the family would visit the Kennedy graves. In addition, our former union, The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, built the Kennedy Gravesite, the Tomb, the Amphitheater, the gates throughout the cemetery, and the Women’s Memorial, now undergoing renovation. Robin’s friend and neighbor had developed an interest in the Centennial because her grandfather had sailed on the Olympia to France and back to return the Unknown Soldier to his final resting place. We all attended the tea and tour together and learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves telling Kennedy staff stories.
To complete the connections, one of my retired Tomb Honor Guard contacts, Richard Azzaro, had been at the Tomb when President Kennedy visited and commented that it was so beautiful he could stay there forever. Richard says that President Kennedy gave meaning and purpose to his life. We all share that legacy.
Robin suggests that everyone take the opportunity to visit The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and the adjacent Museum. It was a lot of fun for us and a real learning experience.