By Susan Motander
Every year (weather permitting) the Condor Squadron executes a flyover during the Allied Veterans’ Memorial Day services at Live Oak Memorial Park. This year, the timing was perfect. The Monrovia High School Band was playing “God Bless America” as the squadron made their first two passes over the cemetery.
The band had just reached the final lines of the patriotic song when the planes made their pass. At the moment the band was playing “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea,” the squadron executed the missing man formation with one plane pulling up and out of the V-formation. It is all in the timing and luck.
This year the keynote speaker for the event had equally good timing. He was Ethan Morse, who had been a member of The Old Guard, the 3rd U. S. Infantry Regiment in the unit assigned to Arlington National Cemetery. Morse said he was inspired to enlist in the Army after visiting Arlington shortly after 9/11. When he enlisted he told the recruiter he wanted to serve at Arlington. The recruiter laughed.
But Morse’s timing must have been right. When he was in infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga. members of the 3rd Regiment came around recruiting. Morse reiterated his desire to be part of the tomb sentinels at Arlington. This time, after the member of the Old Guard stopped laughing, Morse did pushups and bear crawls. Despite the skepticism, Morse did end up at Arlington.
He reported that for more than a year he was on “casket” duty, participating in the funerals held daily at the cemetery. Of the more than 300 funerals in which he participated, Morse said several were especially memorable. He recalled the service for a WWII veteran who had no family. “We were his family that day, and one of the Arlington Ladies [women who volunteer to accompany family at the services] acted as his next of kin, accepting the flag.” As Morse choked up recounting this story there were sniffles throughout the listeners.
Again, Morse’s timing must have been right. The opportunity to try out to be a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns arose; Morse tried out. He made it saying the training was the hardest thing he had ever done—up there with marriage. But he succeeded, unlike many who attempt the challenge and serve at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He urged everyone to go to Arlington “where honor lives in America today.”
The timing was not perfect throughout the ceremony that ran a little long. Just as Monrovia High School Band Director Daniel Magallanes was thanking the Allied Veterans Council and explaining that he thought the band’s participation was important since it shows the kids “Memorial Day is not just about barbecue,” the honor guard fired its salute. “Was it something I said?” quipped the director, not having noticed that is was exactly 11 a.m.: the hour of the surrender of Germany at the end of WWI.