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Maine Police Chief Once Guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The first months of training, he said, were rigorous. The recruits had to learn the special way of marching the guards use when at the Tomb, stepping first with the toe and rolling the foot along smoothly so that there is none of the normal motion.

Mark Holmquist has served as the police chief in Scarborough, Maine, for about two and a half years after a 24-year career as a Maine state trooper.

Despite more than a quarter-century as a police officer, some of Holmquist’s most lasting memories are of his time in a U.S. Army dress uniform as a guard, also called a sentinel, at Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

He was in the right place to volunteer for that duty. Just two or three days into his basic training, Holmquist was chosen to join the Army division called the “Old Guard,” which handles ceremonial duties in Washington, D.C., and funerals at Arlington, NewsCenterMaine reports.

Holmquist said he was picked out because of height, appearance, and having what was called a “military bearing."

The first months of training, he said, were rigorous. The recruits had to learn the special way of marching the guards use when at the Tomb, stepping first with the toe and rolling the foot along smoothly so that there is none of the normal up-and-down motion of the body in normal marching or walking.

That precision, he said, had to be matched by studying and memorizing much of the history of Arlington and the Tomb, as well as the creed and other guidelines for guards.

The rookie sentinels also had to learn how to prepare their uniforms to exacting standards. That work, Holmquist said, is not done by a dry cleaner: “It was done by us. So we spend a lot of time basically in a press shop down in the basement with an industrial press, making sure the pleats in the back of the uniform, that we put in ourselves, were tailored to our bodies. Make sure those were right on target.”

The same standard applied to constantly polishing all the brass on the uniforms, and cleaning and maintaining the rifle.

Those uniforms have no insignia of rank or stripes. Holmquist said that since the rank of those in the Tomb is not known, the sentinels show no rank themselves.

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