Arlington National Cemetery’s endeavor to inform of its past and to educate visitors continued to move forward Jan. 20, with the official opening of a revamped welcome center.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday morning preceded the unveiling of a statue with a likeness of one of the cemetery’s most iconic symbols, the Taps bugler. The front-and-center exhibit is a likeness of the U.S. Army Band, or TUSAB, “Pershing’s Own” bugler SSgt. Jesse Tubb of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
The life-sized statue of Tubb, strikingly painted to detail in ceremonial dress, was unveiled by the U.S. Army Band Commander Col. Thomas Palmatier.
“This is an amazing representation of all the buglers who perform at Arlington National Cemetery, or ANC. I have to tell you, for those who work day to day with Tubb, it is a little eerie also.”
Before the unveiling, the red ribbon was cut by Army National Cemeteries Executive Director Kathryn A. Condon; Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander, Joint Forces Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington; former congressman Chet Edwards; and Daniel Frye, a cemetery employee who represented all ANC employees. The cut officially opened the revamped front door of ANC.
“Today we open the new welcome center that will allow our families and visitors to better understand the heroes that are here in Arlington,” Condon said. “The museum-quality exhibits highlight the events of people memorialized throughout the cemetery’s 624 acres, and we hope each and every one of you explore off the beaten paths.”
Later in her address, Condon personally acknowledged Tubb for setting aside time to be the model for the new ANC art and shared with the audience why the TUSAB staff sergeant was chosen as this honorable guinea pig.
“I was told you were chosen because you are a model NCO and a model military band member. Thank you for agreeing to being a different kind of model, soon to be seen by tens of millions of visitors for years to come,” Condon said to Tubb. “Just like the notes of Taps, your figure is going to add a human dimension to the welcome center that many visitors may otherwise overlook.”
As his family, friends and colleagues watched, Palmatier pulled the canvas away to reveal the near-lifelike image of Tubb.
Civilians, service members and officers were equally impressed with the work. Linnington said he was especially proud of Pershing’s Own, which was so favorably represented during the event by Tubb, Palmatier and the TUSAB Brass Quintet.
“It’s appropriate and an honor that Arlington picked the lone bugler to be the centerpiece of this display,” Linnington said. “Buglers are out providing honors in all weather and all conditions. I’m really honored to have one of ‘Pershing’s Own’ now in the visitor’s center.”
During the past half year, the welcome center has evolved from the large photographic murals to sleek multi-beveled picture panels. An exhibit change at the ANC center has not taken place for more than 20 years.
“This is a major overhaul,” said Stephen Carney, U.S. Army Center of Military History historian who worked with ANC on the project. “This is not a museum. This is a welcome center. The goal is not for people to spend an hour here. It is to give them an orientation to [the main themes] of honor, remember, explore.
“Thirty years from now, you won’t be seeing the same displays,” Carney added about the welcome center. “This is sort of the first rehab.”
The large, walled photographs which included the 1963 John F. Kennedy funeral procession have been replaced, but not forgotten. The JFK burial is still remembered in one of the six cemetery orientation panels, but the welcome center walls are now home to pictures of the space shuttle Challenger Memorial and service members performing ceremonies in the cemetery.
The six new panels include a cemetery overview, the history of the Arlington House estate, a Freedman’s Village history, the evolution of becoming the national cemetery depicted in a vertical glass panel, a retrospect of the JFK procession and a ritual panel outlining how the military performs funerals.