Members of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith campus and regional community will soon have the opportunity to pay tribute and honor fallen soldiers before a replica of the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The traveling exhibition “A Call To Honor: The Traveling Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Replica” will be at UAFS from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, April 29-30, at the campus green thanks to a partnership between the UAFS Student Veterans Organization and Fort Smith Exchange Clubs.
Bringing the replica to Fort Smith is deeply important to providing access to one of the nation's most sacred places, explained Richard Schafer, president of the UAFS Student Veterans Organization.
"I have not had the distinct honor of seeing the original Tomb of the Unknowns,” he said. “It is on my bucket list, but this may very well be the closest I get to viewing the original for some time."
"To be an active part in enabling this exhibit to be set up in not just our state but in our little corner of Arkansas means a great bit of joy to me,” Schafer continued. “I can't guarantee I won't shed a tear or two knowing what this replica, and the original, symbolizes to our veteran community. Exhibits like this serve a greater purpose though. They enrich the culture of the community where they are displayed. I firmly believe this adds context to the sacrifices our servicemen and women make to keep this nation free. It is truly the land of the free because of the brave."
Members of the Fort Smith community will gather to host a tribute program at 11 a.m. Monday, which will be led by Master of Ceremonies Daren Bobb of the Fort Smith Noon Exchange Club.
An introduction by Schafer and a welcome by Blake Rickman, vice chancellor for university advancement and executive director of the UAFS Foundation, will precede a presentation on Americanism by retired U.S. Air Force Major Bill King, chair of the Americanism Committee for the Rome (Ga.) Exchange Club.
Retired Major General Kendall Penn, executive director of the National Guard Association of Arkansas, will address the visitors, and Mayor George McGill will read a proclamation by the city of Fort Smith.
The event will also feature traditional acts of honor including presentation of colors, laying of wreaths, and the performance of T.A.P.S.
In the event of rain, the exhibition will be on display in the Windgate Art & Design lobby, located at 535 N. Waldron Road.
The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater on March 4, 1921.
The Arlington National Cemetery describes the original tomb as a white marble sarcophagus with a flat-faced form, relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters set into the surface. Sculpted into the east panel, which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor. The six wreaths - three sculpted on each side - represent the six major campaigns of World War I. Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are the words, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."
The Tomb was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza.