Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. – To become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one must be motivated, and dedicated. It takes more than just the ability to stand on guard for long periods of time.
Often times, most Soldiers fail during try-outs rather than succeed, but for Spc. Zachary J. Reznik, Tomb Sentinel, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), He used his past to achieve a goal that started back after World War II.
Reznik’s great grandfather, Johann Reznik and grandfather Bruno Reznik, both were forced to work in Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps.
“In World War II my grandfather, was forced to join the Hitler Youth and worked on a Hitler Youth Farm,” said Reznik.
The Hitler Youth was a youth organization of the Nazi Party in Germany. The organization was a logical extension of Hitler’s belief that the future of Nazi Germany was its children.
“The farm supported German Soldiers in the surrounding area of Beberbeck- Kassel, Germany,” said Reznik.
Reznik’s great grandfather was part of a different concentration camp.
“My great grandfather was forced to work camp in the area of Hofgeismar, Germany, and that’s where most of my family members worked too,” said Reznik. “We weren’t Jewish but because of our Polish-Ukrainian background, we were forced to work in these camps because we also lived in Germany.”
Knowing that his family had to overcome this hardship in life, Reznik used his past to help him achieve what many other strive for.
“My father served 21 years in the Army, and when he graduated from basic training, his dad told him to consider his service a repayment of our family’s debt to the Soldiers who didn’t get to come back, and those who liberated our family and ultimately so he could be born,” said Reznik.
This speech is part of the Reznik family tradition.
“After I enlisted and was stationed in Korea at the time, my dad shared what his dad told him,” said Reznik. “He told me to find the best way possible to repay my country and honor it at the same time.
Reznik’s search began and that’s where he found out about The Old Guard.
“After a lot of researching, I found out that I could become a sentinel,” said Reznik. “There’s no higher honor than to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns.”
Upon arrival, Reznik had to keep his motivation up.
“As a military police I had to work in my unit for at least 6 months before I could try out to become a sentinel,” said Reznik.
Along the way there were signs pointing him in the right direction.
“I would walk around post and see different signs and posters at CIF (Central Issue Facilities) or the post exchange, and those posters kept me focused on my goal,” said Reznik.
After much training and hard work, Reznik has completed phase one of his training and is moving forward to achieving his goal.
“I’m currently in phase two of my training, which focuses on the “attention to detail” things, but it’s only a matter of time before I’m guarding the Unknowns.”
Reznik understands that this would not be possible if it wasn’t for the men that came before him.
“Guarding the Unknowns is the most prestigious way for me to pay back my piece of the debt to my family, and to honor my family and carry on their legacy.”