Along the streets of Arlington National Cemetery on a gray, winter morning, it’s quiet. 

When the hearse arrives, soldiers carry the casket draped in the American flag onto a horse-drawn caisson. And then they march with the sounds of their heels clicking, the horses’ hooves clipping along the pavement and the U.S. Army Band playing patriotic songs. 

Lt. Col. Dave Taylor, BS ’96, Physical Education, battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment also known as “The Old Guard,” is leading this funeral ceremony for a woman who served in World War II. It’s his job today to hand over the folded flag to the family and say these words: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” 

They are the only words the Old Guard says to the family during the ceremony. When it’s over, they march into the cemetery in silence. 

Taylor, Capt. Trevor Gingrich, BA ’12, Criminology, and Capt. Andrew McDaniel, BA ’10, Criminology, started out as Mountaineers in ROTC and for at least part of this past year were serving in The Old Guard, whose primary mission is to conduct memorial affairs and other ceremonies at the nation’s hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. 

The Army Rangers who spent much of their earlier days in the military deployed on tactical missions trained to become perfect in movement, in speech, in timing, so that each service expresses the gratitude of an entire country to its fallen heroes. 

– Diana Mazzella