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Published on: Sunday, June 16, 2024 read more ...

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British Prime Minister Speaks of Unity During ANC Visit

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 6/7/2023

“We continue to work together,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Arlington National Cemetery superintendent Charles “Ray” Alexander as he toured historic displays inside the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater on June 7, 2023. Sunak had been speaking about the historically strong bond between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sunak came to the cemetery to honor America’s military fallen and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. To enhance his message of working together, he added a hand-written note to the wreath which read, “In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order that we may live free. We will remember them.”

After laying the wreath, Sunak entered the Memorial Amphitheater, where Alexander introduced him to two Tomb Sentinels from the 3d Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard): Staff Sgt. Taylor Uhler and Sgt. Jesus Morner. Sunak thanked both for their service and reminded them of the importance of their job. The prime minister’s words stuck with Sgt. Morner. “He told us that we would be able to look back on our careers and say this was a very honorable job.”

Alexander then showed Sunak three items that highlighted the longstanding alliance between the two countries: a beam from the Royal Navy’s HMS Impregnable, a ship of the line from the 19th century, and a Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest military honor. The British government gave both as  gifts during the funeral for America’s World War I Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921. Alexander also explained a bronze plaque present by Princess Anne in 2014, which paid tribute to American service members awarded the Victoria Cross in World War I. “That’s very special,” Sunak told Alexander.

The prime minister’s visit left a positive effect on those with whom he engaged. “He was touched by the fact that ANC makes every effort to honor the fallen,” said Alexander after the visit. Staff Sgt. Taylor Uhler, who handed Sunak an Old Guard coin before he departed, said, “To meet somebody in his position who understands and appreciates what we represent is an honor. And he knows what we do.”