Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Foundation was founded on the principle of rekindling our country’s sacred duty to never forget or forsake those who serve and sacrifice for the United States.
The Foundation, allied to the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier aims to unite the U.S. around its love for its country, and embody what connects and transcends its differences while also educating. But it’s those within the organization that truly embodies the mission of the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
Among the founders of the organization is Richard Azzaro, a Tomb Sentinel (badge number 19) and commander of 2nd Relief at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Azzaro, along with another senior leader, Col. Joe Buche (retired), (the 77th Regimental Commander of the Old Guard) came from different walks of life but both dedicated their lives to military service: Both were inspired by President John F. Kennedy, who motivated them to serve their Country, For Azzaro, it began when he witnessed President Kennedy call America to “Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you could do for your Country.” It inspired him throughout 45 years of federal service as a lawyer and continues with his work serving the Tomb Guard mission, our veterans, and their families. As he puts it,
“I have to earn my Tomb Guard Badge every day, serving my Country, by reuniting our fellow Americans with our veterans, their families, and our Allies.”
Eventually, Azzaro and Buche made their way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to work for the Foundation and continue its good work because of how profoundly affected they were. And it’s Buche's and Azzaro’s special connections to the Tomb that continue to motivate them to this day.
“Through my training as a Tomb Guard and what I witnessed on the Plaza as a Tomb Guard — profound grief, love, respect, gratitude, and pride — I quickly understood what I was to do for my Country,” Azzaro said. “There was no room for failure: what I saw; what I heard; what I felt, changed me forever.”
Though Buche’s leadership role differed from Azzaro's, his experience was equally intense and life-changing As when he led the Old Guard, he now leads the Foundation by example and precept. He is the form and face of America’s sacred duty to never ever forget all those that have served and sacrificed on behalf of America, in times of war or armed conflict; their families and our Allies. He still is taken aback by how powerful the Tomb was and is in the moment.
“For me, there's a special place in my heart for those who not only serve, but put themselves at risk while doing so,” Buche said. “When you talk to a lot of Tomb Guards, they will cite the Tomb Sentinel’s Creed and they'll refer to a specific line in there that says, ‘My standard will remain perfection.’ I like to focus on another part of the Creed that says, ‘It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud.’ This emphasizes the frequently anonymous sacrifices of the soldiers who rest not only at the Tomb, but in graves around the world and in our neighborhoods around America.”
On May 27, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Foundation is hosting a Flower Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery with the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation. To donate, volunteer or find out more, visit the website here.
Photo credit(s): Courtesy of the Society of the Honor Guard’s Website