cover image Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

Tom Cotton. Morrow, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-286315-7

In this meticulous history, Arkansas senator Cotton explains the role and duties of the Third Infantry Regiment, aka the Old Guard, at Arlington National Cemetery. For several months in 2007, after serving a tour of duty in Iraq, Cotton was a member of the regiment, which was established in 1784 to honor the “memory of our nation’s fallen heroes” and now conducts ceremonies, escorts the president, and maintains a round-the-clock vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Visitors have observed the unique appearance and requirements of members of the Old Guard: a colonial-era uniform complete with wig, unusual marching style, above-average height (Cotton is 6’5”), and “standing proficiency”—they must be able to regularly stand absolutely still for 75 minutes. Cotton writes in depth about Section 60 of the cemetery, the “newest and most active burial area,” which is allocated to those killed in Iran and Afghanistan; during Cotton’s time in the regiment, 11 of 85 soldiers killed were laid to rest there. He recalls mourners in large processions wracked with “the anguish of losing a loved one just a few days earlier,” including comrades from his tour in Iraq. This reverent account will please readers of military history. [em]Agent: Keith Urbahn, Javelin. (May) [/em]