Paying homage at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Published July 31, 2013

Solemn, silent and humbling are words not often used in earnest by most of society these days, but that was not the case in Washington, DC, June 26.

 Bob Isler, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District maintenance worker at Crooked Creek Lake, several members of the Westmoreland County Young Marines, and a group of veterans from Western Pennsylvania made the trip to DC to recognize the Army’s 238th birthday and to pay homage to John Spisso, Civilian Aide Emeritus to the Secretary of the Army, Pennsylvania West.

“It’s important that the young Marines had an opportunity to show their respect to the Western Pennsylvania veterans and for the work Spisso did arranging the trip,” Isler said.

The group normally makes its annual trip to Washington at or during the week of the Army’s birthday, but this year was different.  Spisso, usually arranged and travelled with the group annually, passed away two months before the logistics could be finalized and cased doubt on whether the trip would happen.

“The trip was originally scheduled for the week of June 14,” Isler said. “Spisso was the point of contact for all of the trip logistics. When he passed, the trip was in jeopardy, but others stepped forward and made it happens and the trip was a success.”

Once the group arrived at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, the visiting guests were given a tour of the Caisson Stables, paid their respects at the Vietnam Memorial, visited the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, and were then transported to Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater. After the Changing of the Guard, a memorial wreath was placed at the Tomb of the Unknowns, honoring Mr. Spisso, as well as the fallen veterans.

  Fourteen-year-old Alexander Isler, Isler son and a Young Marine Gunnery Sergeant, along with 1st Sgt. Ronald Maxson, a retired Marine and the Young Marine’s commanding officer, and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jeske, Pennsylvania National Guard, placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for Spisso. 

 “It was really cool to be able to place a wreath at the Tomb, and to remember those that haven’t come home to their families,” Alex Isler said.

After some reflection and time spent with the sentinels that guard the tomb, the group went back to base for Twilight Tattoo, an Army evening parade and concert dating back 238 years.

Highlighting the trip was a visit by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who welcomed the veterans and Young Marines to the celebration. He thanked them for not only serving, but for helping celebrate the Army’s birthday.

 The Patriot Guard Riders, the Retired Enlisted Association and the Armbrust Veterans Association, were included in the group that travelled to Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall.