For the first time in nearly 100 years, and as part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration, the public will be able to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza and lay flowers in front of the Tomb on Nov. 9 and 10, 2021.

The flower ceremony will start at 8 a.m. Nov. 9 with representatives from the Crow Nation placing flowers at the Tomb. They will recite a prayer in honor of Chief Plenty Coups, who served as a scout for the U.S. Army.

Invited by President Warren Harding, Chief Plenty Coups was the sole representative of Native Americans for the dedication of the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier in 1921. He gave a short speech in his native tongue in honor of the soldier and the occasion. He placed his war-bonnet and coup stick upon the tomb, which are preserved in a display case in Arlington.

Members of the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Nov. 9. (Photo courtesy RaeAnna Victor)

Members of the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Nov. 9. (Photo courtesy RaeAnna Victor)

Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard

For the 100th anniversary of the Tomb, the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard is traveling from Montana to Arlington National Cemetery. One of the members of the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard is Marine Veteran Elsworth Goes Ahead. Enlisting at 18 and serving as a combat engineer, he served in Okinawa, Korea and Camp Pendleton in California during his time in service.

Goes Ahead said there will be eight honor guard members, with six carrying flags. This includes a U.S. flag; a single flag with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard symbols; a Crow Nation travel flag; a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier flag; a Montana flag; and the Chief Plenty Coups flag. The Chief Plenty Coups flag contains the spelling “Plenty-Coos,” as the name was originally misspelled.

Also during the wreath laying, the honor guard will perform a traditional smudging ceremony. The members use cedar to smudge, cleanse and purify themselves and the things around them, Goes Ahead explained.

“The smoke from the smudging is a way of lifting our prayers and good thoughts up to our Creator,” he said.

Learning about Native American service

Goes Ahead said he hopes those attending will ask questions and learn about the significant number of Native Americans who served the nation, following Chief Plenty Coups’ example.

“Chief Plenty Coups prayed for peace for both races,” he said. “He had a very high level of respect for the warriors laid to rest in Arlington. I hope that others learn the role that Natives have played and still play in the Armed Forces. From that early time, the Native people have enlisted, joined and fought for this country. I hope that strengthens our bond with non-Natives.”

Elsworth Goes Ahead is carrying on a family tradition with the event. Vincent Goes Ahead Sr. was one of the founders of the Chief Plenty Coup Honor Guard, along with John Bulltail, Sylvester Cartie Goes Ahead, Philip Beaumont Sr., Clem Goes Ahead and Ben Pease. He said following in the footsteps of his ancestors is humbling.

“It is overwhelming in the sense that my patriotism in my service to this country and to the U.S. flag itself means so much to me,” he said. “To know I’ll be in the presence of all these fallen warriors, that will be an honor. My love and devotion to this country is overwhelming.”

Learn more

To learn more, view the Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Nonprofit-Organization/Chief-Plenty-Coups-Honor-Guard-100798398941183/.

For information about VA’s Office of Tribal Government Relations, visit https://www.va.gov/tribalgovernment/.

To read more about Native American Veterans, visit https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/?s=native+american.

Interested in attending in person?

(Arlington National Cemetery information used for this story.)

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10 Comments

  1. Frank St Phillips November 4, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    Made me proud!
    Army 70-71
    Lam Sohn 719

  2. Paul Arnold November 4, 2021 at 11:09 am

    About 7 years ago I went to NY to put up my Granddaughter Ivy and on the way back we stopped in Washington,DC there to show IvyJack the White House then to the Washington Monument then to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and then lastly to the Vietnam memorial where as I walked down the side walk I would stop and stand at attention ever so many feet. While doing this my granddaughter Ivy would walk along with me and stop with me at the end she then asked me why did I stop and stand to attention which I told Her it was paying respect for those who had gone there and died before me and then those after me when I was over there back at the end of my tour in the US Navy back during July 1966 to July of 1967 a month before I was Honorably discharged. That’s when She looked up at me and smiled. That to me is a great memory to remember till this day. A about 2-2 1/2 years ago I was diagnosed with dementia but when I read this article from the VA News email I get I had to read the rest of the article about the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers and then the memory of our visit came back to mind and thought it would be a nice thing to post here..

    • Larry Brown November 5, 2021 at 9:09 am

      May God bless you, hero Paul Arnold. Your message very much moved me; brought me to loving tears. Were I to go to that so important ceremony I would go in honor of you, specifically, along with those untold numbers of unknown heroes, Respectfully, a Vietnam-era veteran.

  3. Lnc/Cpl Forrest Dean Byron November 4, 2021 at 10:06 am

    As a United States Marine I am proud of how we remember our fallen warriors. God Bless our Native Americans for their role in securing peace for America. I know I am a pale face but I do LOVE our Native Americans.

  4. Thomas F. Bentley November 4, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Although I’m very interested in attending as this was my dream for the last fifty years. I wanted to attend the wreath laying on November 11, 2021, the actual 100th anniversary date. I was hoping to attend because I was a member of the “Old Guard” and was participant on the 50th in 1971! I’m now recovering from brain tumor surgery and am not allowed to drive yet. The good news it is benign.

    • Denise Teora November 4, 2021 at 9:50 am

      God bless you, with quick & complete recovery! Thank you so much for your service to this nation!

  5. Don Roberts November 4, 2021 at 1:10 am

    Jeff Davis – I will be thinking about you and the family you left behind. You were a great person and a good soldier. RIP, You are surely in a better place.

  6. claire wilson November 3, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    wow wish I could attend with our NAtive American patriots. Love them. Too short notice. Have a blessed event. Claire PA

  7. Fred Budreski November 2, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Having been stationed at Fort Myer from 1960-1962 the Old Guard is still responsible for staffing the Tomb, handling funeral arrangements, including a stable of horses for the caissons,, I recall a proud Native American Old Guard trooper who could almost whisper to the animals if they became overly spirited during a ceremony.
    At the time I was in the Honor Guard, I did not fully understand all the sacrifices made by our Native American Military . Since then we have heard about the Native Americans who used their language and codes to foil the enemy.
    I wish I could be in Arlington for the upcoming ceremonies so please keep me informed .

  8. Helene Tonique Laurent Miller November 1, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    May all our veterans be in great health, we are blessed as American people, for the sacrifices made. I myself who’s an American Legion veteran have made many sacrifices for my people and nation. May God continue to bless America!

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