The attention to detail and precision required by soldier’s responsible for guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns Soldier requires an almost impossible level of discipline and dedication.
As the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said, “the soldier’s family is what makes him strong.”
It’s only with the help of one’s support system that make it a possibility.
Sgt. Steven A. Carr Jr., known as Andy to his family, was one of the select few that has the combination of selflessness, determination and support to be a tomb sentinel for almost three years.
On July 8, Carr Jr. made his last walk at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
This is a Sentinel’s last act in honoring the Unknowns in an official capacity.
Joined by his wife of two years, Ally B. Carr, Carr Jr. placed roses on four of the tombs as his final sign of respect and reverence.
Carr said he was recruited straight out of the regimental orientation program, the three-week program that teaches new recruits marching and rifle skills. He’s only been assigned to the tomb, he said.
Training to be at the Tomb is not an easy task.
Ally said her husband would shine shoes for four hours a day and constantly work on his uniform.
Despite the preparation, the rigors of training still shook Sgt. Carr ‘s confidence.
“I never thought I would pass,” said Carr. “You just take it one task at a time. Like any training in the Army, you just take it one day, one task at a time. So that’s all I did. Eight months later, I completed the training.”
Ally said during training they would both become very nervous for the tests he had to pass to become a Tomb Guard and earn his Tomb badge. Carr Jr. managed to meet the challenges and has worked at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for 35 months.
Carr estimates he made around 900 walks, with over 500 changing of the guard ceremonies. The assignment wasn’t one he thought he was cut out for at first.
“I’m a local, I came here as a kid.” said Carr. “I never imagined doing this. When I first got here I told my dad I wasn’t going to do it. He called me crazy.”
With a push from his father, Carr decided to take on the challenge. Ally said her husband was always meticulous and task oriented.
“I knew he had it in him,” she said.
Carr Jr. said it was with the help of his tremendous support system that he was able to work at the tomb for the past three years. It took the sacrifice of not only his time, but also his family’s.
“I have a huge support system,” said Ally. “He has a huge support system. It’s one of the reasons why we are so good together. We had a lot of help.” The demands on the couple’s time didn’t cease for any reason, even
when they got married while Carr Jr. was at the tomb. Luckily Mrs. Carr’s sister Juliann D. Guiffre has a background in event planning.
Helping execute their wedding wasn’t the first time she helped this couple.
“I went to college with Andy,” said Guiffre. “I introduced them.”
Guiffre said she knew Carr was the right choice for her sister as he trained for the tomb.
“He would get off from his Tomb training at six o’clock in the morning and drive three hours just to be with Ally,” said Guiffre. “His dedication to the military, his dedication to family really cemented my idea of him being my brother-in-law.”
It was only with the creative scheduling of his spouse and family that enabled Carr to be so successful as a Tomb sentinel.
“The schedule is very demanding,” said Guiffre. “They both handled it really well. Ally is very understanding of the time he has to be away.”
“He’s missed every holiday,” said Ally. “Everybody has been so understanding.”
Family holidays would take place the day after the holiday or the day before to help accommodate Carr’s hectic work schedule, said Ally.
“He’s worked so hard,” said Ally. “Crazy hard. You can’t imagine the lengths these guys go to stay as pristine and to stay focused.”
For Carr, the sacrifices required pale in comparison to the honor of serving at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“Service members give their lives and identities for this country.” said Carr. “It’s worth protecting. These three service members deserve our hard work. That’s the drive. If that’s not your drive, you’re wrong.”