I am writing because of the discussion in Philipstown over whether to remove the name of Hamilton Fish III from the Desmond-Fish Public Library.

I am a former member of the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was created after Fish introduced legislation in Congress in 1920. He intended this as a place where all of America could come together, and to ensure that families of our war dead would have a place to grieve and receive the gratitude of a nation.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.

In his private life, Fish spoke about the shared dangers with his men in the muddy trenches, the hand-to-hand fighting and the unspeakable horror of watching several of his men obliterated by an artillery burst. He spoke in reverential tones about the Black troops that he trained, went to war with and brought home. Until his death, he was the form and face of America’s sacred duty to never forget.

While performing their duties “on the mat,” it may appear that members of the Tomb Guard are automatons. But we witness the profound grief, respect, love and pride of family members of the missing. They speak to us; we see it in their tear-streaked faces; we hear it in their prayers.

The Tomb Guard reveres Fish. In fact, we are creating a medal to recognize the service of individuals who have served the mission of the Tomb, and it will include his name and image. Along with the Military Women’s Memorial, we also sponsored the creation of 26 paintings that depict the history of the Tomb, including one of Fish.

He never abandoned his country — let us not abandon him.

Richard Azzaro, Ellicott City, Maryland

Azzaro, a Yonkers native and Army veteran, is a co-founder and past president of the Society of Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Desmond-Fish library has a longer version of this letter posted on its website, as well as copies of the paintings from the History of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, by Dave Rappaport.

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

This piece is by a contributor to The Current who is not on staff. Typically this is because it is a letter to the editor or a guest column.

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1 Comment

  1. I think Richard Azzaro has an excellent response. Should everyone who drives a Ford — the namesake of a well-documented antisemite, Henry Ford — trade in their cars? No, we learn the history and share the entire story of what people were about. [via Facebook]

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