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Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS100)

"Never Forget Garden" initiative represents America’s sacred duty to remember veterans

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission

Our Centennial Commission has been partners and friends with a number of organizations over the years. Among them is a very special group -- the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This group has a strong focus -- to make certain that the individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice of their life for our freedom are not forgotten, and that the general public understands this price of freedom. The members of the Society are preparing for the Centennial of the arrival of the first Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. To help us all mark this special anniversary, Society members have developed a new initiative to help us to remember the service of our veterans, and the memory of our fallen. We were able to talk with the Project Director, Richard Azzaro, about the project.

Tell us about this great new initiative!

logos TUS100The Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS100) in Arlington National Cemetery is a nationwide invitation from the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) to plant individual and public gardens as a visual way to represent America’s sacred duty to remember our veterans and their families; now and for all time.

The Society views TUS100 as an opportunity to unite our people around love of Country. We feel that this initiative provides a personal path for individuals, communities, gardening clubs, garden architects, seed and plant vendors and government elements to express their profound love, sorrow, respect, and gratitude to those who have served and sacrificed on behalf of America and their families. In the timeless language of flowers, they will quietly trumpet the message that must never weaken: “We will never, ever, forget or forsake our veterans or the principles that define us as Americans.” Any time that we pause to remember our veterans could not be more serious. On that day, in that place, is the time for reflection and remembrance. A day when personal grief and love for country go hand in hand.

See https://tombguard.org/centennial/#garden for information on the complete program.

Our goal is to foster a national movement to create and promote “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Never Forget Garden”, not unlike the popular support of the Victory Gardens of World War II.

Our vision was captured by Dr. James D. Schaub (President of the Society of the War of 1812) who said: “The words ‘the language of flowers’ is an excellent context leading us to understand that the flowers express our deep respect and honor for our veterans that can speak for us when we struggle to express our feeling in words.

IMG 0200Discussing the Never Forget Garden site at George Washington's Mount Vernon are (left to right) project director Richard Azzaro, Neale L. Cosby, and Dean Norton, Director of Horticulture at Mount Vernon.The use of flowers as symbols of high regard and remembrance is longstanding historically and culturally. We humans across time and the globe embrace flowers as our physical expression supplemental to verbal expression. A Never Forget Garden can and should evoke emotions in individuals but should also foster an occasion for shared emotions and especially learning why this Garden is here. There are stories to be told of our veterans from the past and our service men and women, current and future. Because gardens are scalable, a large professional Never Forget Garden and a household Never Forget Garden can be effective stimulators. The Never Forget Garden will create opportunities for teaching and remembrance. I can imagine a child asking mommy and daddy ‘why is this garden special’? Or the parents taking the initiative and saying ‘I want to tell you why this garden is special’. The Never Forget Garden will be, in a way, proxies for the Tomb.”

What do you hope to achieve through this campaign? What do you want people to take away from their participation.

We ask every American to help the Society bring this message and invitation to as many Americans as possible; help us by urging all to plant, and to encourage the planting and dedication of these Never Forget Gardens; help the Society and our fellow Americans make the Never Forget Garden our generation’s “electric cord” that connects us to each other and especially to those who “we owe a debt that can never be repaid.”

The language that we intend to place upon the Never Forget Garden Marker is set out below. I think it gives voice to what we think we learned from the living and the dead while serving as Honor Guard at the Tomb and what it is that we hope.

“This garden is a living tribute to all of America’s veterans and their families. In silence and respect, this is a place to remember why millions of our countrymen have fought and died for our liberty and our freedom. Here we renew our promise to fulfill America’s sacred duty to never forget : Here we renew our mutual pledge to support them with “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor”.

Who are your partners in it? What organizations are helping you with this, and other 11 Nov 2021 initiatives.

This initiative was authored by me (Richard A. Azzaro, Tomb Guard Identification Badge # 19,1963-1965, Co-founder of the Society) on behalf of the Society. From the very beginning the idea was enthusiastically supported by many who support the Society and its work to support the mission of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, generally and the Centennial specifically. Gavin McIlvenna, the President of the Society and Chairman of the Centennial Committee; (he is also a co-founder of the Society) provided the kind of support and encouragement that only a brother Tomb Guard could: we are bound together by our service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If there is someone that should be called a “partner”, he is it.

The supporters include individuals and organizations. Some provided support and indeed inspiration directly by way of encouragement and some because they provided information or inspiration because of their service to our Country or their sacrifice.

Oregon State Police Garden 500Some Never Forget Gardens already in place include one created by the Oregon State Police, at their Dalles Patrol Office.At the top of the list I would say that Neale L. Cosby, (Col. retired), (Tomb Guard Identification Badge # 2, and also a co-founder of the Society) several years ago started me and the Society on the path to prepare for the Centennial. His leadership and commitment cannot be overstated. With his leadership the Society has embarked upon a number of initiatives to help America observe the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the higher meaning of the Tomb. E.g. The National Salute, collaboration with the U.S. Army Band in developing a musical work that tells the story of Americas sacred duty to never forget and a concert that tells the story of bringing home the WWI Unknown Soldier. We are working on a “Tool Kit” that provides educational materials to schools that visit the Tomb that will help them better understand their experience at Arlington National Cemetery and realize the full impact of why so many millions of Americans died to defend America. (I will be happy to provide additional information regarding other initiatives or you can consult our excellent website www.TombGuard.org/centennial.)

Let us know how we can best support you!

At the very top of the list of organizations, would be George Washington’s Mount Vernon -- e.g. they were the very first to install a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Never Forget Garden. Standing there in that special place, I was overwhelmed with the profound meaning of their action: at the home of our First American, the very first Never Forget Garden was created and the capstone of their action is that they installed native American flowers, plants, and trees. The Oregon State Police followed their lead and became the first law enforcement agency in the United States to plant a Never Forget Garden at The Dalles Patrol Office, to remember the fallen Troopers from that office.

The National Rose Society has provided wonderful support both moral and technical. They helped us in our research as we try to identify the white roses that were placed upon the casket of the Unknown Soldier selected by Sergeant Edward F. Younger: these flowers remained with the WWI Unknown Soldier and are buried with him. This piece of history led to the Society’s adopting the white rose as our official flower. Thanks to them, we are now working with Jackson & Perkins rose company to name a white rose “ The Tomb of the Unknown Solider Never Forget Rose” and also a yellow rose that represents the MIA/ POW.

The World War I Commission has been a steady supporter of the Society and an unparalleled inspiration to remember our Veterans and their families. I cannot fully express the incredible experience of attending their Interfaith Religious Service at the Washington National Cathedral on November 11, 2018.

I would share that Senator Tom Cotton has been a champion for the Society and the Centennial: He with Senator John McCain sponsored the legislation that recognized the unique and singular place the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is held by America and all freedom loving people. This legislation mandates that the Secretary of Defense take the appropriate actions for the appropriate observance of the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The newly installed Commander of the American Legion, Brett Reistad continues to be a champion, friend, and supporter for all of the Society’s efforts.

Dr. John Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense has been a rock upon which much of what we have done has been built. Lt. General Mickey Kicklighter (U.S. Army Retired) has given freely of his extensive experience: his advice and counsel have been invaluable.

IMG 0202The staff at George Washington's Mount Vernon were the first to create a Never Forget Garden.

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