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For 1st time, brothers guard Tomb of the Unknown


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http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_...EMPLATE=DEFAULT

 

 

Feb 19, 6:01 PM EST

 

For 1st time, brothers guard Tomb of the Unknown

 

By BRETT ZONGKER

Associated Press Writer

 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the first time, two brothers have earned the rarest honor offered in the U.S. Army, having completed training to serve as highly regimented sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 

Army Spc. Mathew Brisiel of Spring, Texas, on Friday followed his brother, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Brisiel, when he became the 578th soldier awarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge since 1958.

 

The 24-year-old said it was the toughest thing he's ever done. Sleep only averaged about four hours a night after 20-hour days of work, studying "tomb knowledge," shining shoes and perfecting uniforms.

 

The job entails guarding the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery all hours of the day, regardless of weather. The soldiers pace silently and deliberately 21 steps in front of the tomb and pause facing the tomb for 21 seconds. Each walk lasts a half-hour in the summer months and an hour in the winter.

 

Most striking, though, was what it came to mean for him when his trainers would ask if he "loved the unknown soldiers."

"In my head, I was thinking, love the unknowns? That's a little strong, that's a little much," Mathew Brisiel said.

 

But something changed over eight months of training.

 

"When I'm standing out on the plaza and I'm walking and I see an elderly woman sitting there by herself crying ... it sends chills up your body," he said. "You realize how awesome it is. ... You represent every soldier that gave the ultimate sacrifice."

 

Soldiers in the Old Guard, part of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry, at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., can train for as long as a year to pass a series of tests to become sentinels - or move on. They must reach near perfection in uniform inspection, outside performance, and extensive memorization of the tomb's history and meaning.

 

About 27 soldiers serve in the platoon guarding the tomb, 15 of whom are full sentinels. The others are in training.

 

All volunteer for the mission. Each soldier must be in excellent physical condition with an unblemished military record and must pass a two-week trial to pursue sentinel training.

 

Mathew Brisiel passed in about eight months.

 

He enlisted in the Army in 2008 and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and joined the Old Guard in 2009. Now he will train other soldiers to guard the tomb with his 27-year-old brother, Jonathan Brisiel, who has served at Arlington for the past three years.

 

"To see my little brother be this peer, this equal and watch him grow into such a man, it's exciting," said Jonathan Brisiel, who enlisted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and served in combat in Iraq in 2004.

 

He said the driving motto for guardians of the tomb is: "Soldiers only die when they are forgotten. Tomb guards never forget."

Their mother, Cathy Brisiel, said her sons have joined a tradition she knew as a child. She grew up in Washington, and her grandfather is buried at Arlington.

 

"I wish my late husband had been present to witness such an accomplishment for his boys," she said. "I thought my heart would pop out of my chest this morning when I saw my boys in their uniforms."

 

---

 

On the Net:

 

U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment: http://www.army.mil/oldguard

 

 

 

 

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I read this in the paper here in Texas--My uncle was one of the first honor pallbearers in 1958. He was a WWII hero and was highly decorated with 12 medals--Homer Wise.

So this is a great honor---

Edited by BiscuitMaker
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