This story is brought you by the Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission: https://www.facebook.com/CCVSC?fref=ts
By Taylor Moore
He was African-American. He was drafted in 1959. He made history. He was my grandfather.
SP/4 Fred Moore was the first black troop to join the 3rd Infantry Brigade, The Old Guard, which since 1948 has guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
When his draft notice arrived, the Cleveland native was not pleased. ”I was working and the draft notice just rubbed me the wrong way.” The last place he wanted to be was in Army basic training, where life dramatically changes.
Fate had other ideas.
At Fort Knox, Kentucky, he marched instead of walking. There was no dining room; he ate in the mess hall. Shoes were replaced by boots. No private bed or bedroom; Moore slept on a bunk bed in the barracks. He learned to accurately fire a rifle and clean it well enough to satisfy his drill sergeant.
His platoon sergeant told the new troops, “The Army can do more to you than you can do to the Army.” The sergeant should have said, “The Army can do more for you than you can do for the Army.”
While still in basic training, he was called to an officer’s office. The officer told Moore he had scored exceptionally well on tests. At 6 feet 1 inch, Moore was an impressive troop.
The officer asked Moore if he would like to be in the Honor Guard Company.
Moore had no idea what the officer was talking about.
The officer told Moore the 3rd Infantry Brigade was called The Old Guard. Among its duties, The Old Guard protected the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb is on a hilltop in Arlington National Cemetery. Come hell or high water, these spit-shined troops faithfully perform their duties.
Moore accepted the assignment.
The Old Guard Honor Company also provides an escort platoon, a casket platoon, a firing party, and a color guard. Moore was first assigned to the firing party. “We served military funerals in Arlington National Cemetery. Sometimes we did funerals every half hour.”
There was more. He and his unit were part of parades and ceremonies. For visiting dignitaries, his unit was assigned as the ceremonial guard.
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.
“You were busy all the time. You were busy, just about every day. When I first got there, once I got my training and settled into the company, I was on the military firing party, we did military funerals in Arlington National Cemetery,” Moore recalled. “We fired the rifles over the graves, and we did that five days out of the week. Sometimes, we would have burials every half-hour on the hour.
“The next thing I know, the word came back to the company that they told me to get my stuff, I was moving out of the 3rd Platoon, I was going down to the Tomb Guard platoon, I was going into training, and that was in January. So I went into training in January and in March I became a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he said.
My grandpa was a man among men. He is loving, modest, and his service to the Unknown Soldier is exemplary. http://vsc.cuyahogacounty.us