Searcy recalls serving when he was a younger man

Published 7:52 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

WEST POINT — When he was a young man, Hunter Searcy had the opportunity to serve in the oldest active duty regiment in the U.S. Army. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment is often called the Old Guard because it’s been active since 1784 and is also called the Escort to the President. It’s a major unit of the Military District of Washington, D.C.

Searcy was assigned to the unit from February 1959 to February 1961.

“They selected me because of my size,” he told The Valley Times-News. “I’m glad they did. It was such an honor to do this.”

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While Searcy never stood guard at Arlington National Cemetery, he was with the same unit that did that. He did take part in ceremonies for high-ranking U.S. officials and did see President Dwight D. Eisenhower on a number of occasions. He was assigned that detail on one occasion when Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Washington from the Soviet Union.

“I could have reached out and touched him,” he said.

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a high honor for a U.S. soldier. Those selected to do this are from the Old Guard. The regiment’s mission is to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades or to be present for ceremonies and special events where the U.S. Army is represented. They have a key role in communicating the story of the U.S. Army to citizens of the U.S. and the world.

Although the Old Guard functions in a ceremonial role, it’s an infantry unit and is thus required to meet standards for certification in its combat role. It’s the only unit in the Army that can march in parades with fixed bayonets.

Duties of the Old Guard include standard and full honors funerals in Arlington National Cemetery and dignified transfers at Dover Air Force Base. Old Guard soldiers also perform all dignified transfers to fallen soldiers returning to the U.S.

Searcy stood guard at the funeral of George C. Marshall, the American soldier and statesman who was the chief of staff under Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and was Truman’s Secretary of State. He was also part of a ceremony at the Washington Monument where the U.S. flag went from 48 to 50 stars following statehood for Alaska and Hawaii.

After two years on active duty, Searcy was in the active reserves for two years and in the inactive reserves for two more. He later worked some 30 years as a mechanic for Delta Airlines in Atlanta and worked a 53-acre farm off Webb Road near West Point. Powertech sits where his hay field used to be.

Searcy is an active member of American Legion Post 67 and counts Post Adjutant Bobby Elliott as one of his best friends.

“He and my older brother Wade played high school football together at West Point High School and later had boot camp together in the Army,” he said.

In more recent times, the younger Searcy and Elliott have gone through something together – cardiac rehab. They encourage each other to stick with the program for wellness sake.