Alabama Guardsman Lays Wreath at Arlington

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ken Johnson
  • 117th Air Refueling Wing/Public Affairs

On a sunny day last October here at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the sentinels stood guard as they solemnly do every day. This day, however, proved to be unlike any other for Master Sgt. Daniel Pate, an Alabama Airman and father of a Muscle Shoals Middle School student.

Pate is an Aerospace Ground Equipment Technician and a 1st Sgt. for the Logistics Readiness Squadron at the 117th Air Refueling Wing. He was selected to participate in a formal wreath laying ceremony during an eighth grade school trip to Washington D.C.

He met with the tomb guard sentinels earlier as they explained to Pate the order of events. A crowd of over 200 people, mostly students gathered to watch the event. The entire ceremony only lasted a few minutes.

Pate remembered saying to himself, “Don’t mess up, don’t mess up.” He rendered a salute after placing the wreath while a trumpeter played TAPS.

“When they play TAPS, that’s when it hits you,” said Pate. “I mean it’s like a punch in the chest. I teared up and you can’t help but tear up.”

The monument on a hilltop overlooking Washington, D.C. represents the many U.S. service members who have died without their remains being identified. The tomb has been guarded twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week since 1937.