Pfc. Jacob Davenport, infantryman, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), guards the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, December 21, 2012 in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Davenport, who is currently in training to become a Tomb guard, hopes to follow in his great-uncle's footsteps. His uncle served as a Tomb Sentinel from July 1957 until August 1958. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)
Pfc. Jacob Davenport, infantryman, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), visits the gravesite of his great-uncle, Col. (ret.) Talmadge N. Gilley, Jr., December 17, 2012 in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Gilley, Jr. served as a Tomb Sentinel from July 1957 until August 1958. Davenport, who is currently in training to become a Tomb guard, hopes to follow in his great-uncle's footsteps. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)
ARLINGTON, Va. (12/28/2012) - There are crucial moments in life that define the person we are and are going to be. For Pfc. Jacob Davenport, it was when his great-uncle, Col. (ret.) Talmadge N. Gilley, Jr., died.
Gilley Jr. passed away July 18, 2009. On the day of his funeral, Davenport decided he wanted nothing more than the opportunity to walk in his great-uncle's footsteps and become a Tomb guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. [ANC]
“His ceremony was beautiful. He had a full honors burial at ANC. I was very sad to have lost him, but I was glad that he was in my life,” said Davenport, infantryman, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “I visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where my great-uncle guarded all those years ago, and I knew that I wanted to join The Old Guard and become a Sentinel one day.”
Davenport's chance came in March of 2012 when he enlisted into the United States Army. After arriving to The Old Guard in July, Davenport immediately volunteered to go to the Tomb. Now, six months into training, Davenport is already proving to his trainers that he has what it takes.
“It is very tough and challenging for soldiers down here. We are the standards of perfection, but I see that Davenport quickly understands the training and the Sentinel philosophy,” said Sgt. Erik McGuire, Tomb Sentinel team leader.
Davenport attributes his aptitude to the lessons he learned from his great-uncle who served as a Sentinel from July 1957 until August 1958.
“My uncle wanted to serve those men who died in combat, whose names and identities no one knows,” said Davenport. “He wanted to keep these men guarded, and so do I.”
McGuire said it was clear that something more was pushing Davenport.
“I didn't even know that he was related to a Tomb Sentinel when he first got here,” said McGuire. “I joked with him later about it when I told him it must be in your blood because he is pretty squared away.”
Davenport's dedication was apparent even before he started the Sentinel training.
“I noticed before he was assigned to us that Davenport spent many hours outside just watching the Sentinels and the Changing of the Guard on his own time,” said McGuire.
The Changing of the Guard is a ceremony in which a new Tomb guard is inspected by a relief commander before replacing the Tomb guard on duty. Davenport said watching this ceremony brought back childhood memories.
“I used to sit down and listen to my uncle's stories about serving as a Sentinel and I remember just being amazed by it all,” said Davenport. “I love watching the changing of the guard because it reminded me of my great-uncle and what he did. It is great how they have kept this high standard for all these years.”