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Veterans Park event to recognize Tomb of the Unknown Soldier's 100th anniversary
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
A sign at the park featuring a picture of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be dedicated during the ceremony. A Never Forget Garden will also be unveiled. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Army Maj. Jonathan Buckland knows a thing or two about military tradition, honor and respect. The former member of The Old Guard is looking forward to sharing his knowledge at Veterans Park of Effingham County.

Buckland will be a featured speaker during a 10:30 a.m. Veterans Day event. His topic will be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which opened 100 years ago.

“It’s a pleasure to be part of this,” Buckland said.

Buckland, currently serving in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, was in The Old Guard from 2013-15, including a 10-month stint as a platoon leader. 

The highly selective Old Guard is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the president. Buckland helped coordinate events with the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. 

“We did a lot of the joint ceremonies,” he said, “so anytime that you saw military members at the White House, Pentagon or the Capitol — those were usually soldiers in my company that were tasked to do that.”

The kind of ceremonies handled by the Honor Guard were wide ranging, including dances.

“It was very demanding but very rewarding at the same time,” said Buckland, a native of Centreville, Va. 

Buckland also participated in final honors for service members, laying them to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

He said, “I only got to do a couple of those missions but that, by far, was one of the biggest honors that I’ve had serving in the military for the last 11 years — just being able to take part in that and seeing the family bestowing the honor and respect that is laid on to them, and then giving the one last goodbye to the family and making sure that it is done on a proper note.”

Buckland said Old Guard members take tremendous pride in what they do.

“You always strive to be perfect,” he said. “(It’s) the care and dedication that every solider takes part in  as far as making their uniforms look good not only for ceremonies but also for final honors. Its from the privates all the way to the regimental commander.

“... That was really one of the best parts of that unit. Everyone felt a desire to ensure that they were putting their best foot forward because it had to do with something that was bigger than themselves and bigger than the team. It was for that family or for that service member.”

During his Veterans Day presentation, Buckland will relay facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier given to him by the sergeant at arms. The information was furnished by tomb sentinels.

“That’s what I’ll read,” Buckland said. “I may change it around a little bit but I will make sure I have the authorized published history of the tomb.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a place of mourning and a site for reflection on military service. It is the most visited memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. The marble sarcophagus stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.

Since 1921, the tomb has provided a resting place for an unidentified World War I veteran. Unknowns from later wars were added in 1958 and 1984.

“It’s the 100th anniversary and it’s being celebrated all over the world,” said Tommy Allen, one of the organizer’s of the Veterans Park event.

A sign at the park featuring a picture of the tomb will be dedicated during the ceremony. A Never Forget Garden will also be unveiled.

The garden is a result of the Society of the Honor’s Guard’s invitation to all Americans and freedom-loving people to plant flowers as a visual way to represent the nation’s unwavering commitment to a sacred duty to recognize, remember and honor veterans and their families now and in years to come.

“We’ve got roses and some of those flowers (violas) that are specific to the Purple Heart,” said Ruth Lee, another Veterans Day ceremony organizer.

The Never Forget Garden at Veterans Park of Effingham County will also feature a birdbath.

During the Veterans Day ceremony, the Effingham County Middle School band will play several patriotic songs.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Veterans Day ceremony will be moved to the gymnasium at the Clarence Morgan Complex if weather conditions are poor.