Thursday, February 19, 2015

Arlington National Cemetery ‘Walking the Mat’

First African American Tomb Guard Recalls ‘Walking the Mat’
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2015 – Arlington National Cemetery rests on an expanse of rolling hills in northern Virginia. One of the busiest tourist spots in the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which sits at one of the highest points in the cemetery.

Though there is a spectacular view of Washington, D.C., visitors don’t pay much attention to the scenery. They are focused on the white marble sarcophagus and the lone soldier who guards it, 21 steps at a time. While there has been a 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week military guard at the Tomb since July of 1937, the 4th Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) didn’t assume its watch until 1948. And it wasn’t until 1960 that the Tomb Guard selected its first African American soldier to “walk the mat.”

Drafting and Recruitment

Specialist 4th Class Fred Moore, the first African American posted to the Tomb Guard, was drafted Aug. 13, 1959, and left his home in Cleveland, Ohio, for basic training shortly after. He wasn’t pleased with being selected and spent the first part of his training thinking about how he could go back home.

“When I got my letter from the government telling me that I had been selected, I was upset because I was working, and a lot of the guys, the friends that I knew they weren’t working,” Moore said. “And I had a job, and then when I went into the service, they were still doing what they were doing, and it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.”

One night, Moore’s platoon sergeant lined up the new recruits and asked how many of them had been drafted. He sympathized, acknowledging that the draftees might have a few complaints about being in the service. And then he reminded everyone, “The Army can do more to you than you can do to it.”

“So, I just said ‘OK, I’m going to straighten up, I’m going to do the best I can, and make the best of it,’ and it worked out real well for me,” Moore said. read more>>>

African-Americans in Military History: Breaking Barriers
Feb 18, 2015 - Features a brief synopsis of African-American firsts throughout U.S. military history.

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