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Guarding the Nation's Tomb

soldiers

PHOTOGRAPHS BY M.G. ELLIS

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Along the streets of Arlington National Cemetery on a gray, winter morning, it’s quiet. When the hearse arrives, soldiers carry the casket draped in the American flag onto a horse-drawn caisson. And then they march with the sounds of their heels clicking, the horses’ hooves clipping along the pavement and the U.S. Army Band playing patriotic songs.


Lt. Col. Dave Taylor, BS ’96, Physical Education, battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment also known as “The Old Guard,” is leading this funeral ceremony for a woman who served in World War II. It’s his job today to hand over the folded flag to the family and say these words: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” 

They are the only words the Old Guard says to the family during the ceremony. When it’s over, they march into the cemetery in silence. 

Taylor, Capt. Trevor Gingrich, BA ’12, Criminology, and Capt. Andrew McDaniel, BA ’10, Criminology, started out as Mountaineers in ROTC and for at least part of this past year were serving in The Old Guard, whose primary mission is to conduct memorial affairs and other ceremonies at the nation’s hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. 

The Army Rangers who spent much of their earlier days in the military deployed on tactical missions trained to become perfect in movement, in speech, in timing, so that each service expresses the gratitude of an entire country to its fallen heroes. 

– Diana Mazzella 

Arlington cemetery
Capt. Trevor Gingrich leads the color guard during a funeral ceremony for a World War II veteran.
“The most special part of our job is that we actually don't receive any feedback. We're kind of in the background.”CAPT. TREVOR GINGRICH
Tomb of the Unknown
Capt. Trevor Gingrich (center) leads a platoon during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
swordflag
The funeral procession
The funeral procession makes its way through Arlington National Cemetery.
“We're the final face of the Army that families see. So to us, we take great pride in it.”LT. COL. DAVE TAYLOR
Lt. Col. Dave Taylor salutes the casket
Lt. Col. Dave Taylor salutes the casket.
 A trumpet player in the U.S. Army Band plays Taps
A trumpet player in the U.S. Army Band plays Taps.
“I have a grandfather who I never met that's buried in Section 60. ... On Memorial Days when we do flags in, I always try to find a way to be the one to stick the flag in to honor him.”CAPT. ANDREW MCDANIEL
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SERVING THOSE WHO SERVED

West Virginia University prides itself on being a top military-friendly school, as evidenced by various national rankings in recent years — from being one of the best 175 colleges in the nation for veterans in the Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2016 rankings and with three online programs making the top five Best Online Programs for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report. 

Now with a full-time director of Veterans Affairs, Jerry McCarthy, the University is working to meet the needs of students who've worn the uniform. More than 1,000 veterans, military personnel and dependents are currently furthering their education at WVU. 

The following items are just a few of the veterans programs at WVU. 

• Veterans of WVU student organization 

• Yellow Ribbon program 

• Veterans Affairs office offers rehabilitation counseling, parent relations counseling and therapy for those with PTSD 

• Mountaineer to Mentor, where faculty and staff serve as mentors to student-veterans 

• Veterans Advocacy clinic at the WVU College of Law