Nearly 1,100 cadets will experience the true meaning of discipline and determination when they meet the team behind the documentary “The Unknowns” and a Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumnus who served as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Thursday event is part of the Corps’ Rice Center for Leader Development curriculum, which provides leadership development to cadets. It will feature filmmakers Ethan Morse and Neal Schrodetzki, both U.S. Army veterans who were stationed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and alumnus Lt. Col. Brad Lawing, U.S. Army (retired), who earned a degree in history from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences in 1992 and served as a sentinel from June 1988 to October 1989.
Center Director Elaine Humphrey said the panel discussion will highlight two very different facets of leadership: the dedication of the soldiers who go through a rigorous training program in hopes of becoming a sentinel and the humility of the filmmakers, who took on the documentary not to further their own careers but to spotlight the soldiers’ service.
“What I’m wanting the cadets to ponder is the question of ‘why them.’ What about them made them consider doing what they did, and what inside them pushed them to complete two difficult missions,” Humphrey said.
The event is from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Burruss Auditorium and is open to the public.
The sentinels guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24 hours a day. Sentinels, all volunteers, are the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Morse and Schrodetzki were both sentinels, and their documentary, released on Memorial Day 2016, focuses on portions of the sentinel training program. They used a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.
“It’s a documentary that’s going to stand the test of time. It’s powerful,” Humphrey said. “The minute precision that these guards have to pass is incredible, and it’s important for cadets to see that and understand what ‘well-done’ looks like.”
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to American services members who were killed in action but cannot be identified. Fewer than 20 percent of all volunteers to the tomb are accepted into the training regiment, and a much fewer number of those are able to pass the rigorous tests.
“My hope for the cadets to take away are that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more than just a cool tourist attraction and the sentinels at the tomb do what they do not for attention, but because of the ultimate sacrifices that the unknown soldiers have given their country and their fellow countrymen,” Lawing said.
He returns to campus from Camden Military Academy in South Carolina, where he is the commandant of cadets. He has been deployed seven times to Haiti, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq, and, most recently, to Afghanistan.