Loving The Unknowns

The following article appeared in our local paper this past weekend. The story caught my attention and I couldn’t help reflecting on some of the young soldiers comments, especially “loving the unknowns”. 

In our own ways we too love the unknowns, or at least respect and even honor some. Possibly some of our past presidents or our ancestors whom we may have heard wonderful stories of, or bible heroes, Moses, Abraham, David, the Apostles, just to name a few, and yes, even the unknown men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedom.

Yet what about the other unknowns? The drug addicts, prostitutes, alcoholics. I could list countless categories. Often what makes someone unknown to us is their situation. If their life is completely different from ours we may shy away from them. Different beliefs, practices or lifestyles can make a person unknown to us simply because we may feel uncomfortable associating with someone who doesn’t fit into our way of thinking, or our way of doing things.

When you think about it, we were unknowns to Jesus. He lived a sinless life and came to live among sinful people. He showed us how to love those who are different than ourselves, how to have compassion on them and how to love them the way he loves us.

After reading this article I am reminded to reach out and love the unknowns, to follow the example left to me by the one who is perfect.

~Now, enjoy the story…

Arlington tomb to be guarded by brothers The soldiers from Texas are part of an elite Army group. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Brisiel (left) takes part in a Tomb Badge Ceremony with his brother, Army Spc. Mathew Brisiel, as their mother, Cathy Brisiel, watches Friday at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va.
Luis M. Alvarez/ Associated Press
For the first time, two brothers have earned the rarest honor offered in the Army, having completed training to serve as highly regimented sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Spc. Mathew Brisiel of Spring, Texas, on Friday followed his brother, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Brisiel, when he became the 578th soldier awarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge since 1958.

The 24-year-old said it was the toughest thing he’s ever done. Sleep only averaged about four hours a night after 20-hour days of work, studying “tomb knowledge,” shining shoes and perfecting uniforms.

The job entails guarding the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery all hours of the day, regardless of weather. The soldiers pace silently and deliberately 21 steps in front of the tomb and pause facing the tomb for 21 seconds.

Each walk lasts a half-hour in the summer months and an hour in the winter.

Most striking, though, was what it came to mean for him when his trainers would ask if he “loved the unknown soldiers.”

“In my head, I was thinking, ‘Love the unknowns? That’s a little strong. That’s a little much,’ ” Mathew Brisiel said. 

But something changed over eight months of training.

“When I’m standing out on the plaza and I’m walking and I see an elderly woman sitting there by herself crying it sends chills up your body,” he said. “You realize how awesome it is. You represent every soldier that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Soldiers in the Old Guard, part of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry, at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., can train for as long as a year to pass a series of tests to become sentinels — or move on.

They must reach near perfection in uniform inspection, outside performance and extensive memorization of the tomb’s history and meaning.

About 27 soldiers serve in the platoon guarding the tomb, 15 of whom are full sentinels. The others are in training.

All volunteer for the mission. Each soldier must be in excellent physical condition with an unblemished military record and must pass a two-week trial to pursue sentinel training.

Mathew Brisiel passed in about eight months.

He enlisted in the Army in 2008 and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and joined the Old Guard in 2009.

Now he will train other soldiers to guard the tomb with his 27-year-old brother, Jonathan Brisiel, who has served at Arlington for the past three years.

“To see my little brother be this peer, this equal and watch him grow into such a man, it’s exciting,” said Jonathan Brisiel, who enlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and served in combat in Iraq in 2004.

He said the driving motto for guardians of the tomb is “Soldiers only die when they are forgotten. Tomb guards never forget.”

Their mother, Cathy Brisiel, said her sons have joined a tradition she knew as a child. She grew up in Washington, and her grandfather is buried at Arlington.

“I wish my late husband had been present to witness such an accomplishment for his boys,” she said. “I thought my heart would pop out of my chest this morning when I saw my boys in their uniforms.”

2 comments for “Loving The Unknowns

  1. February 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    That is an impressive group of soldiers. Great (and indicting) application of the article to our lives. Ouch!

  2. Meowmix
    February 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Spine chilling, isn’t it? We were in D.C. 3-4 years ago and were privileged to visit this site. We must never forget. And for two brothers to be able to do this together———how wonderful.

    As for your own opening remarks, I have to wonder if I’m just a weakling and am not loving the “unknown” quantity in my nephew with his problems. I THINK I’ve done my best, but I guess I’ll live for a long time wondering if I really did.

Comments are closed.