History never remains static, and 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 Sunday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded the unveiling of a statue with a likeness of one of ANC's most iconic symbols — the taps bugler. The front-and-center exhibit is a likeness of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing's Own” bugler Staff Sgt. Jesse Tubb of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
The life-sized statue of Tubb, strikingly painted to detail in ceremonial dress, was unveiled by TUSAB Commander Col. Thomas H. Palmatier.
“This is an amazing representation of all the buglers that perform at Arlington National Cemetery. I have to tell you, for those who work day to day with Staff Sergeant Tubb, it is a little eerie also.”
Before the unveiling, ANC executive director Kathryn A. Condon, Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commander, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and Military District of Washington, former congressman Chet Edwards and Daniel Frye, a cemetery employee who represented all ANC employees, cut the red ribbon which 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.
“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 Tubb's Family, friends and colleagues watched, Palmatier pulled the canvas away to reveal the near-lifelike image of Tubb.
Civilians and servicemembers were equally impressed with the work. Linnington was especially proud of Pershing's Own, which was so favorably represented during the event by Tubb, Palmatier and 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 welcome center walls are now home to pictures of the space shuttle Challenger Memorial and servicemembers 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 vertical glass panel, a retrospect of the JFK procession and a ritual panel outlining how the military performs funerals.