During the Korean War, Tom Barnett, an Army draftee, received a privileged assignment. After basic training he was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer, Arlington, Virginia, the home for guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
The tomb, which dates to World War I, memorializes unidentified U.S. service members who died in combat. For nearly a century, tomb guards have maintained an unwavering and highly ceremonial watch over the tomb, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As Tom executed the precise movements of a tomb guard day in and day out, his dedication to honoring the memory of those who sacrificed for their country deepened.
Continuing a legacy
Seven years ago, Tom moved to Pine Run Village. In 2019, as he neared his 90th birthday, he received an email from the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The society was planning to create a nation-wide program establishing Never Forget Gardens to be dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2021, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Inspired by the proposal, Tom decided to create a Never Forget Garden at Pine Run Village. He envisioned the transformation of a small flower garden, which included an understated monument to veterans, into a grander tribute.
Tom’s commitment to the project was absolute. He obtained the approval, rallied a dedicated committee, and started planning. The committee consisted of veterans and nonveterans, staff and residents. Their collaboration resulted in the expansion and enhancement of the garden well in advance of their stated deadline.
After the garden’s completion, Tom recognized the need for its sustained care and put together a Guardians of the Garden committee, ensuring its maintenance well into the future.
A lifelong curiosity
Long before moving to Pine Run, Tom’s life was marked by boundless curiosity and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. As a child, he was fascinated by radios and the seeming magic of how they worked. “I used to listen to them and wonder, how can that wooden box make all those sounds? I had to find out,” he says.
This curiosity led him to pursue a career in the electronics industry. He started night school at Drexel University in 1948, but it would take him just over a decade to complete his bachelor’s degree in engineering. Right in the middle of his education, the Korean War broke out and in 1952 and Tom was drafted into the Army.
Instead of being deployed overseas, he was stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, as a member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, which participates in funeral services at Arlington Cemetery. It was here that he volunteered to be a guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
A natural decision for a new home
After a fulfilling career as an engineer, finally having unraveled the mystery of radio, Tom and his wife of 59 years looked to move to Pine Run Village. They had been living just a mile away. Two of their three daughters had worked at Pine Run during their high school and college years.
Sadly, Tom’s wife died before they could fully settle into a new home, but the community became a place where Tom could continue to thrive independently.
At Pine Run, Tom found not only a home but a vibrant community that enriched his wellness, physically and spiritually. He participates in a number of activities, forging deep connections with fellow residents.
“I’ve been here seven years and enjoyed every moment of it,” he says. “It’s a very nice place to live.”
A place of personal growth
Pine Run also has offered the chance for personal growth and exploration for Tom. He has embraced various hobbies and interests, such as gardening, volunteering, and storytelling. Pine Run University, a program featuring resident and outside speakers, has provided Tom with the opportunity to share his experiences as a tomb guard. He served as an honorary professor.
As Pine Run evolves and supports its residents under the leadership of Presbyterian Senior Living, Tom hopes that the legacy he leaves behind through the Never Forget Garden will inspire future generations.
PSL would like to recognize all Veterans, especially those living at a PSL Community. Your service and sacrifice is noble and we thank you for protecting our country and the freedoms offered to all American citizens.
About Presbyterian Senior Living
Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 95 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.