November 19, 2021
One of the many important things accomplished at the Annual General Meeting of TOGA was the election of the 2022 Board of Directors. I’m pleased to announce them here. I’m totally confident that this great group of experienced and committed volunteers will lead us to bigger and better things in 2022. Here they are –
- President – Joe Buche COL (R) and former RCO
- VP – Jeff Stitzel CSM (R) and former RSM
- Secretary – Michael Brock LTC (R)
- Treasurer – Ralph Jones
- Directors –
- Dave Book
- Marty Cassidy
- Nelson Forsburg
- Ray Stender
- Tyler Willbanks
- Mike Winter
Please join me in congratulating the 2022 TOGA Board of Directors. They will take over on January 1st.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank PRIDE Editor Karin Markert for her many years of service to TOGA. She is stepping down and will be sorely missed. Please contact me or any of the Directors if you know of someone who might be willing to serve as our editor of the newsletter. We need to fill this slot as soon as possible.
Flip Godfrey, President
12 November 2021
Dear Members and Friends,
I want to take a minute to recognize and commend all those who played a part in the planning and execution of the Centennial of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The significance of this undertaking cannot be overstated. I am in awe of how the planners pulled together the educational, visual, virtual and participation aspects of the celebration. It was so much more than a joint force ceremony. It not only provided opportunities for local, state and national involvement, it reached out and pulled in our long-time allies in Europe who played a major role 100 years ago and ever since.
I can’t possibly name all those who were involved but I know the following people were among those instrumental in the planning and execution – Regimental Commanding Officer COL Patrick Roddy – Former RCO COL (R) Jim Laufenberg – Former RCO and current TOGA Director COL (R) Joe Buche – Sentinel and DMOR SGM (R) Gavin McIlvenna. I know they worked on this for almost two years. I’m happy for them that it was a beautiful day in Arlington National Cemetery where the world was able to tune in and share in this important moment in history that apparently went off without a hitch.
This has to go down as one of The Old Guards’ very special moments. Congratulations to all who played a part!
Philip “Flip” Godfrey, President
As the Centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier arrives next week, we are pleased to be able to share another work of art that has been created especially for this celebration.
In honor of the 100th year anniversary of the founding of the Tomb, the Arlington, Virginia-based opera company UrbanArias has commissioned two outstanding Americans to create music and poetry for a new set of songs, called UNKNOWN. The touching and poignant poems are by Marcus Amaker, the Poet Laureate of Charleston, SC. The music is by the award-winning composer Shawn Okpebholo, the Vanguard Opera Composer at Chicago Opera Theater.
UrbanArias has joined forces with arts organizations from across the United States – including Opera Colorado, Opera Birmingham, The Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts – to create a spectacular and dramatic film of the world premiere performance of these songs. The film of UNKNOWN will premiere online on November 11, 2021, commemorating both Veterans Day and the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and will be available free of charge for one month. Register to view the film at urbanarias.org
Watch a trailer for the film here:
Read Marcus Amaker’s poetry here:
Unknown Poems (urbanarias.org)
Read Shawn Okpebholo’s notes about writing Unknown here:
Those of you who will be attending the SHGTUS Reunion and Centenary activities the week of November 8-13 will have the chance to attend the film premiere screening. For more information, go to UNKNOWN Film Premiere Registration
Please spread the word among your networks of colleagues, family, and friends about this beautiful short film.
President & Public Affairs Chair
Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS)
“Soldiers never die until they are forgotten, Tomb Guards never forget”
Dear Members and Friends,
I’m happy to report that the TOGA Board of Directors met in Arlington, VA on October 29th and 30th for a couple of important reasons. It felt great to be back on post after a long hiatus due to COVID restrictions. I want to thank Regimental Commander COL Patrick Roddy for all the help we received. I’ll give you a short recap of what happened while we were there.
On Friday the 29th we started the morning by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also a wreath at the TOGA memorial stone adjacent to the amphitheater there. A nor’easter was in full blow with a drenching rain and wind. It reminded us of how we all stood the marks back in the day. From there we moved to Charlie Guard where we presented the company with a table tennis table and equipment for their day room. This donation was made possible by a generous gift from the family of a fallen hero who was escorted to his final resting place in ANC by Charlie Guard. The family members actually attended the presentation. It was a special time for sure. From there we move to Conmy Hall where we recognized the achievements of several Soldiers and made some special presentations.
We first recognized the 2021 Best Warrior Soldier, SPC Little; Best Warrior NCO SSG Saavedra and Best Medic SGT Biggerstaff. Next was a presentation of the first-ever TOGA Educational Assistance $1,000 Scholarships. The winners were selected by a committee from essays submitted to TOGA. The recipients were 1LT Robert Moretz, SSG TaWei Chen and SSG Bailey Pogue. Next, we presented 55 solid brass buckles to the Caisson Platoon. These are given to graduates of the Military Basic Horsemanship Course. TOGA initiated this program several years ago. It is 100% funded now by Caisson Platoon alumni. TOGA holds the funds until more buckles are needed. Of special note, the Regiment named Marty Cassidy and Tyler Willbanks as “Distinguished Members of the Regiment”. A tremendous honor for both who have demonstrated an extraordinary level of support to the Regiment. Congratulations to Marty and Tyler! Well deserved. We closed out the ceremonies with presentations to COL Roddy and RSM Whittington. You can click on this link to see photos of the various activities and presentations – The Old Guard Association, October 29, 2021
On Saturday the 30th we conducted the first Annual General Meeting of the Association on a virtual platform. It was a bit of a challenge to get it set up because it was our first time but I have to say, I think it went off very well. We were able to elect the Directors for 2022 and conduct the other business of the Association. I encourage you to participate in the future.
I hope you enjoy the pictures of the activities. Know that COL Roddy and many other officers, NCOs and Soldiers told us how much they appreciated the support. These things are made possible because of you, the members and friends of TOGA. We could not do it without you. Please continue to help us by recruiting your friends to join TOGA. Share this information with them as an example of what we do. Thank you!
Flip Godfrey, President
To: All our members, family, friends and supporters
From: Flip Godfrey, President
Re: 2021 Reunion – Cancelled
This is a message I was hoping I would not have to send a second time after 2020. After working over the past several months to plan the 2021 Reunion, the TOGA Board of Directors and our Reunion Committee watched with dismay as the COVID situation changed quickly and dramatically. We convened a series of meetings over the past weeks focused exclusively on our reunion to explore our options. This culminated on Sunday evening when the Board voted unanimously to cancel our 2021 Reunion.
While it is the prudent thing to do, it is still very, very, disappointing. After more than a year of wearing masks and limiting our interactions with others, I know we were all looking forward to seeing each other’s faces, conducting a pass-in-review, interacting with the Regiment’s Soldiers, and a wide range of other things at our Annual Reunion. We on the Board, and our partners at the Regiment, did everything we could to put us in a position where we could all attend. I was particularly excited about the FDC alumni joining us this year. What a great addition that was going to be. However, when we closely evaluated the current situation, it became clear that we should not let our emotions cloud the responsible way ahead.
The bottom line is that we did not have the ability to execute the event with any semblance of what we’ve come to treasure about our reunions, all the credible indicators show the situation—both in terms of public health and restrictions in response to that—getting markedly worse by mid-September, and we would be hazarding the reputation of both TOG and TOGA and some of TOGA’s finances.
If you want to read more about the details of our deliberations and decision, I’ve pasted that at the end of this message. Most importantly, please read the following that addresses hotel cancellations, reunion refunds, and our plan to execute our General Membership Meeting and board elections in a virtual setting.
I want to this opportunity to thank Colonel Roddy and his team for all their efforts to support the reunion and TOGA during this difficult time.
See you in 2022!
Remember to cancel your hotel reservations. Note: You may still use your reservation if you choose to go to Arlington during the time the reunion was originally scheduled.
Ralph Jones, our Treasurer, will begin issuing refunds on Monday, August 23. Please allow 5 to 10 days for the credit to appear or the check to arrive. If you wish to donate all or a portion of your registration to TOGA, please let Ralph know prior to the 23rd by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at –
c/o Ralph Jones
2811 Oakton Manor Ct.
Oakton, VA 22124
Annual General Meeting of the Association – AGM
The Board of Directors is making arrangements to conduct the AGM in a virtual format. While we will provide more details in the next several days, we expect that will take place in the mid-September to mid-October timeframe. Keep an eye out for that information and please plan to participate in the governance of your Association. As a reminder, only those Charter, Regular (Annual) and Life Members who are current with their dues are eligible to vote. Please also consider updating your member profile at TOGA Membership – Login – The Old Guard Association! All communication about the AGM will be sent to your email address on file there.
Reunion Go – No Go Decision
The Board established a set of criteria we should use to guide us in our decision. These criteria were:
- The Regiment’s ability to support the reunion
- COVID constraints in Arlington and VA
- Restrictions that our hotel would likely have in place in mid-September
- Whether and to what extend TOGA might be exposed to liability if we executed the reunion
- The financial breakeven points associated with levels of attendance and planned activities
- The COVID transmission rates in Arlington
- The hotel’s willingness to negotiate cancellation penalties
- Any travel restrictions in other states with which our members would have to comply after they returned from the reunion
Out of those eight criteria, we found three were most compelling.
- Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBMHH), MDW, & Regimental Support. JBMHH, MDW, and the Regiment’s focus has rightly been and will continue to be on maintaining readiness to accomplish their missions. With this in mind and after applying the policies that the JBMHH, MDW, and other commanders had or might put in place, our ability to plan for even limited interaction with the Regiment was not in place.
- Active-duty Soldiers would likely be restricted from participating in reunion activities
- No soldiers at the President’s Reception
- No chain of command at the Gala Dinner
- No CCG posting and retiring the colors at the Gala Dinner
- No TUSAB or FDC entertainment at the Gala Dinner
- No soldiers at the Gala Dinner
- No soldiers to accept awards
- Lunch in the DFAC was cancelled.
- The Pass In Review was cancelled
- Visiting the Old Guard Lounge at the O-Club was cancelled
- The FDC jam session on Friday night would likely not take place
- The FDC picnic and concert on Saturday afternoon was cancelled.
- RCO attendance at the General Membership Meeting would be only via Zoom
- Masks would be required on all bus transportation.
- Masks would be required for everyone visiting the Army Museum.
- Wreath ceremonies at TUS and the TOGA Memorial would likely be reduced force
- Active-duty Soldiers would likely be restricted from participating in reunion activities
- COVID Constraints in Arlington and VA.
- All credible projections indicating increased transmission and hospitalizations around mid-September (see graphs below)
- It’s likely that elected leaders would impose a requirement to wear masks indoors and limit indoor capacity constraints
- Already a requirement on military installations in the region to wear masks indoors
- Potential Liability
- Executing in the face of current forecasts might expose TOGA to suits
- Executing in the face of current forecasts
- Might expose TOGA to allegations of unwise and imprudent behavior
- Might cause those in the chain of command and the public to question the Regiment’s prudence for their role supporting our reunion
Fellow Old Guardsmen,
Had enough of the pandemic? Tired of Covid19? Are you finally ready to have a great time, to enjoy the comradeship of your former buddies, to take a trip down nostalgia lane and to create some new happy and lasting memories? Then, on behalf of the Officers, Directors and Staff of The Old Guard Association, it is my pleasure and privilege to invite you to the 23rd Annual Reunion to be held once again at the luxurious and convenient Sheraton Pentagon City in Arlington Virginia, located only one block from historic Arlington National Cemetery and your former home, Fort Myer. Most of you probably know by now that the Defense Department has seen fit to rename our former Army quarters, Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall, but it will always be Fort Myer to those of us who served there so many years ago. The hotel also runs a regular shuttle service to the airport and a nearby Metro station making trips into the city for sightseeing easy and inexpensive. Our hotel package includes free parking and in room Wi-Fi.
And this year for the first time in our 23 years of holding a reunion our fellow Old Guard veterans from the Fife and Drum Corps Alumni Association have decided to coordinate their reunion with that of our Association. The reunion will be held starting on Wednesday afternoon September 15th and will conclude Sunday morning September 19th. FDC already has a large group registered for the reunion and our combined attendance is expected to exceed 300 former members of the Regiment. Registration forms for both the reunion and the hotel have been updated on the website to accommodate additional options for registration, including an opportunity to attend the FDC banquet and “jam” session which will be held Friday evening in the 16th floor Galaxy Ballroom. For the many of you who have already submitted your registration you are neither forgotten nor too late to update your plans to attend the FDC functions on Friday evening. Simply send a check for $50 per person to TOGA Treasurer Ralph Jones who will update your existing registration package. Ralph’s address is 2811 Oakton Manor Ct., Oakton, VA 22124.
As usual the Hospitality Room will be open throughout the four days of the reunion stocked with a wide assortment of your favorite beverages and snacks. Also, right outside the doors of the Hospitality Room please stop by and visit the Quartermaster Store. Nelson has a fresh inventory of clothing items and Old Guard accessories to add to your personal collection.
On Saturday morning the members of the Association will gather at the hotel to conduct the Annual General Meeting for the purposes of reporting on the health of the organization as well as elect a new slate of Directors to serve the next two years. Everyone is welcome to put their name on the ballot and we strongly encourage your participation in this process. Each year there are a lot fewer members attending the AGM than are registered for the reunion. Maybe it’s just the result of the prior evening’s activities, but we truly need your voice at the meeting to provide new ideas for growth and to make the Association even stronger. Please come!
While the men (and perhaps a few ladies) are at the AGM, the remainder of the ladies are invited to a sensational tea which will be held in the Stars room adjacent to where the members are attending the AGM. From the sounds of laughter next door the ladies always have more fun than the men. We are desperately seeking someone (presumably female) to host this year’s tea. Sharron Jones has graciously volunteered to organize the Hospitality Room and Debbie Forsburg and Lisa Stender have once again agreed to decorate the ballroom for our Saturday evening gala, but as of this writing we do not have a person to host the tea. Please help! If you can, just email me at email@example.com. I know most of the men would rather be at the tea than at the AGM.
Saturday evening brings the lavish Association gala hosted in the lobby level ballroom of the Sheraton. Your dinner choices are listed on the registration form so be sure to mark your selection when you mail in your registration. I’m not swapping for your chicken if you forget to choose. Our keynote speaker this year will be Mr. Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation. Mr. Fisher is a business leader and philanthropist with a passion for serving those who have served our country. He is a tireless advocate for those who have made tremendous sacrifices for our country including military service members, veterans and their families. Mr. Fisher oversees a network of 90 Fisher Houses throughout the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. Fisher Houses are a home away from home for the families of service members and veterans who are being treated for an illness or injury far from home. Over the years, the Foundation has provided more than 10 million nights of lodging for military families and on any given night, more than 1,300 families are sleeping at a Fisher House. Musical entertainment for the evening will be provided by our own Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
Sadly and all too soon, Sunday morning rolls around and it’s time to pack up and head home. You’ll still see everyone in the lobby for that one last story, a parting hug or handshake, and a promise to “See you next year” for our 24th anniversary celebration. We can’t wait to see you in September! Get that registration filled out now and make your hotel reservations.
Martin Cassidy, Vice President Ross Andrews, President
The Old Guard Assoc. Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps Assoc.
(On behalf of President Philip ‘Flip’ Godfrey)