Fitzpatrick Advances Tomb Guard Honors

May 25, 2013 Issues: Veterans
Fitzpatrick Advances Tomb Guard Honors

LANGHORNE, PA – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) on Friday announced legislation he introduced that would ensure members of the elite Arlington National Cemetery Tomb Guard the option of internment in the national cemetery.  

The congressman, joined by Pasquale Varallo, a retired member of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier platoon, 3rd Infantry, Army,  discussed the Tomb Guard Recognition Act [HR 2157], which he introduced Thursday in the House of Representatives.

“Currently, unless a Tomb Guard meets one of the other eligibility prerequisites, they could be eligible (only) for inurnment—but not burial. I think this is tragically wrong,” said Fitzpatrick. “This simple legislation would fix that and allow those elite few guardsmen the guaranteed right to burial at Arlington.

“To me the premise is simple,” added Fitzpatrick. “They earned it. Those exceptional individuals who guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier should have the option to be buried in the same cemetery they watched over. This bill makes that happen. “

Since taking over the mission on April 6, 1948, Tomb Guards are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of weather conditions.  Only 600 soldiers have served as Tomb Guards since 1948. 

“I think my brother Tomb Guardsmen should be allowed to be buried in the cemetery they guarded so faithfully,” said Varallo, a guard during the late 1940s. “After writing lawmakers, and even the Secretary of the Army to no avail, I was introduced to the Congressman who took it upon himself to address this concern. To many of my brothers, my friends, this would be their last wish- to be buried in Arlington.”

“Guarding the tomb was a special honor,” added Varallo. “Even at 2 a.m. when I was all alone I would think of all the others buried out there. I never felt like I was alone… I felt I was being guarded.”

Arlington is the only national cemetery to hold servicemen from every war in U.S. history with over 400,000 of our nation’s service members, veterans and families buried there. Among them, nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are entombed at Arlington, including the unidentified remains of World War I, World War II and Korean War servicemen buried at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Pennsylvania’s 8th district which includes all of Bucks County as well as a portion of Montgomery County. He serves as the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.