11th Cav Wreath Laying 2023
Chaplain Bill Karabinos, 11th ACVVC
As Senator Tom Cotton, a former Old Guard Company Commander states: Arlington National Cemetery emerged from the ashes of the Civil War and is a place dedicated to healing, reconciliation, and remembrance. The Tomb is one of the most popular sites in the nation’s capital. For eighty-seven years, that sacred spot of ground has been under constant, round-the-clock guard. But what you don’t see, what you cannot see, is the tireless effort behind the simple ceremony. Though their public performance inspires awe, the Sentinel’s devotion to their mission when no one is watching is what truly reflects the nation’s love for our war dead.
Five minutes after the Changing of the Guard, 11th Cav Troopers will carry a wreath bearing our Regimental Crest to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Blackhorse Troopers include those who served in Vietnam, Germany, during the Gulf Wars and some, still on active duty will be there.
It is a cold walk up the hill, and a toe-freezing event standing on the marble steps, but it is an unforgettable joy to be with a few of your brothers, all veterans of all the “Regimental travels” of the Legendary Blackhorse Regiment. In past years, active-duty troopers from Fort Irwin, California have joined us. As they do, and we all do, joined as silently as possible, with respect and reverent decorum as this honored site dictates.
Our wreath laying ceremony, on the 122nd birthday of the Regiment, begins with the 11:00 AM “Changing of the Guard,” on Friday, February 2, 2023.
No question, the Tomb Guards will sternly rebuke you, if you express too much camaraderie or enthusiasm when you arrive. Save that banter for after you depart the Amphitheater area, for a walk on the way down. You may even walk past Chaplain Hill, and there salute the grave stone marker of Blackhorse Vietnam Chaplain (Monsignor) Walter Montandon, who some of you might remember from 70-71.
In 2016, I answered President Emeritus Allen Hathaway‘s challenge to come to Arlington to celebrate the birthday of the Regiment on Ground Hog Day, February 2nd. I’m going back for my 8th consecutive visit. Join me and other veterans of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Abraham Lincoln reminded the nation in his 1st Inaugural address: Though passions may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection, those mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot’s grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land.
In our days, as in his, many passions have strained our bonds of affection, but those mystic chords of memory we knew in Vietnam and which stretch from the patriots’ graves of Arlington across our great land, still call forth yet again, “the better angels of our nature.”
For the many years, prior to 2016, I traveled to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Ground Hog Day. Staying up all night in the frozen forest on the Eastern Continental Divide to watch a bunch of crazies talk to a giant rodent, who provided the unerring prediction of whether or not, we could expect an early Spring and it was a frozen time of joy and a family tradition. When I gave up that trip after 2015, so too, did I trade the opportunity of drinking coffee with the governor of Pennsylvania and his wife at 5:00 AM. Instead, I opted to join the Blackhorse crowd at Arlington. The size of the crowd in Pennsylvania was from 8 to 10 thousand. I traded that venue for a gathering of only twenty or thirty, but now had the honor of standing with a “Three-Star” and former Colonel of the Regiment, General Guy Swan.
Don Snedeker, our Historian, relates in his excellent history of our travels: The Blackhorse in Vietnam, Colonel Bill Cobb’s message to the Blackhorse troopers in 1967.
“The Regiment travels have been many and varied, ranging from the jungles and mountains of the Philippines, the parched plains of Northern Mexico, the rivers and forest of Europe during World War II, the hills of the Iron Curtain country during the Cold War to the jungles and savannahs of Vietnam ... reflect the regiment’s past deeds and await with eager anticipation for its future successes ... consider our many brothers in arms who have given their lives for the ideals which our country stands. Let us all in our own way pay homage to those gallant men and what they stood for.”
Come along and if you wish to join us for the luncheon afterwards at Joe Thiesman’s Restaurant, 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite A, in Alexandria, Virginia.