Lake Bride

It’s funny how one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’re writing a book you hadn’t planned on writing.

My dad’s cousin, JJ, often sends him funny quotes or memes, or things to make him smile. He also shares interesting tidbits of information. Dad chooses the things he likes best and sends them on to me.

One of his “chosen favorites” from JJ was a lovely post written about the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at  Arlington National Cemetery.  I’d heard of the cemetery, had never visited it, and knew there were guards, but that was about the extent of my knowledge when I opened that email from dad.

After reading what was shared, I had to know more. I needed to know more about the soldiers who guard the Tomb and the cemetery. And that knowledge led to me writing a sweet contemporary romance about a Tomb Guard, a nurse, and an array of wacky wildlife.


In 1857, George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington, willed an 1,100 acre property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. The Lee family vacated the estate in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, and federal troops soon occupied the property as a camp and headquarters.

In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village, on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, training, and medical care. As the number of Civil War casualties grew faster than other local cemeteries could handle them, the property became a burial location. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, when Private William Christman was laid to rest there.

That June, the War Department officially set aside 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery. By the end of the war, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried there.  Eventually, the Lee family received compensation for the property although the land remained with the War Department. Today, the cemetery has since grown to exceed 600 acres and is one of the oldest national cemeteries in America.

Evolving from a place of necessity to a national shrine to those who have served honorably in our Nation, the rolling hills have become the final resting place to more than 400,00 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. An average of 27-30 services are held each week day and more than 3,000 ceremonies and memorial services take place each year. Among the notable graves include presidents (President Kennedy and President Taft), astronauts (including John Glenn and Christa McAuliffe), and celebrities (such as Maureen O’Hara, Lee Marvin, and Audie Murphy).

At first, being buried at Arlington was not considered an honor, but it did ensure service members whose families couldn’t afford to bring them home for a funeral were given a proper burial. The first official Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The event was so popular, an amphitheater was constructed in 1873 to hold the official ceremonies. By the late 1870s, high-ranking veterans began requesting burial in the Officers’ Sections.

In 1899, the U.S. Government began, at its own expense, repatriating service members who died overseas during the Spanish-American War. The cemetery expanded to include Sections 21, 22, and 24. Congress authorized, in 1900, a designated section for Confederate soldiers. After World War I, more than 2,000 service members were repatriated and interred in Sections 18 and 19.


In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from various American military cemeteries in France. The four caskets were taken to the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France. Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the  Quartermaster Corps oversaw the arrangement of the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.  From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the Unknown Soldier’s casket was transported to Washington, D.C.  on the USS Olympia. The Unknown Soldier arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921, and was taken to the Capitol Rotund. The Unknown lay in state in there on November 10 with around 90,000 visitors paying their respects that day.

On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Additionally, numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards.

Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. Thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented. The tomb was unguarded, since most people were respectfully. But it became more popular with people to treat the tomb as a tourist attraction. It’s said some even picnicked on the tomb because of the grand view it provided.

In 1926, the Army assigned soldiers as guards. A sarcophagus was installed in 1932.  The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” (This inscription gets to me every time I read it.)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War in 1956. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these Unknowns took place in 1958. The caskets of the World War II and Korean Unknowns arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of May 30. They were then carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade. A Vietnam Unknown was added in 1984. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown, and also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. With modern technology, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed in 1998 and identified. His remains were transported to his family in St. Louis, where he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The slab over the empty crypt was since been replaced. The inscription of “Vietnam” has been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen 1958 – 1975” as a reminder of the commitment of the Armed Forces to the fullest possible accounting of missing service members.

Beginning in 1937, guards were stationed 24-hours a day to keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1948, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), took over the prestigious duty and continue to guard the Tomb today. Known as sentinels, the soldiers provide security for the Tomb, lead ceremonies, and maintain the sanctity of the space. To them, they honor the Unknowns through the precision of their rituals.

The sentinels are amazing.

After digging into the research of this unique soldier, they have my highest respect and admiration for their service and dedication.

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb guards must go through a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of their routine has meaning. The guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.

Now imagine doing that in searing summer heat (in a wool uniform), in pouring rain, or freezing snow. It’s what they do. Every single day.

The Sentinels have a creed they live by. One of my favorite lines is this one: And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.

In my sweet romance Lake Bride (releasing June 23), the hero has spent the past two years of his life as a Sentinel. He’s at a crossroads in his life, trying to find himself and direction for his future. When his favorite relative, Uncle Wally, passes away and leaves him a cabin on a lake in Eastern Oregon, Bridger sees the perfect opportunity to get away and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

If you read my book Henley that was part of the Love Train series, Bridger is a great-great-great-grandson to Evan and Henley Holt!

A solemn soldier.

A woman full of sunshine.

And the lake where they fall in love.

Twenty-one steps. The past two years of Bridger Holt’s life have centered on the twenty-one steps he repeatedly walks back and forth as one of the sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now that his duty is coming to an end, Bridger has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. Guilt from his past and trepidation about his unknown future drive him to the mountain cabin he inherited from his beloved uncle to gain clarity and direction. The quirky residents in the nearby town of Holiday, the assortment of wildlife that adopts him, and the woman who shines a light into his tattered soul might be what Bridger needs to find the redemption he seeks.

Outgoing, upbeat Shayla Reeves spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Holiday has become her home, and she enjoys spending time in the mountains around town. She adores the patients in the dementia facility where she works as a nurse. But something is missing from her mostly joyful world. When she mistakenly camps on private land owned by the mysterious and brooding Bridger Holt, she realizes what her life is lacking isn’t adventure but love.

Will two opposite personalities overcome their challenges and figure out a way to build a future together?

Find out in this sweet love story full of hope, small-town humor, and the wonder of falling in love.

Pre-order your copy of Lake Bride today!


You can get a free Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Commemorative Guide to download at this link:

To enter for a chance to win a Lake Bride postcard, bookmark, and some other fun goodies,

just share if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery.

If yes, what did you most enjoy there?

If no, share about a place you’ve visited that was special to you. 

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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

76 thoughts on “Lake Bride”

  1. No, I have not been but I absolutely love visiting the national parks, monuments and historical sites. It always amazes me what I learn.

    • Hi Kellie,
      Thank you for stopping in today. Like you, I’m always amazed by how much I learn when we visit parks, monuments, and historical sites. Have a beautiful summer!

  2. Good morning Shanna- I am loving this book. It’s so special and I’ve learned so much about the Sentinels and the Tomb Of The Unknown soldier reading this book.
    I’ve never visited it, but I’ve been to many fun places that honor our heroes. Fort Stockton in Fort Stockton, TX when I was in college comes to mine.,_Texas

    Thank you for writing this wonderful book with so much history. Love and hugs, my sweet friend.

    • Good morning, Tonya!
      Thanks for sharing about Fort Stockton. I’ll add it to my list of places to visit if we ever take a tour of Texas!
      I’m so glad you are enjoying the book. Thank you so much for reading it, sweet friend!
      Have an amazing day! Loads of love and lots of hugs!

  3. I have been there and have witnessed the changing of the guard. It is such a solemn event.

    Seeing the eternal flame at the Kennedys’ burial site is moving, too.

    • Oh, thanks for the mention of the eternal flame. I’ll add it to my “must see” list. So neat you were there and got to see the changing of the guard. Thank you for stopping in today, Denise!

  4. Yes, I have been there and was impressed by the changing of the guard ceremony. Absolute respect is demanded while this is going on.

    • How wonderful you were able to witness the changing of the guard ceremony! That’s fantastic! I think it’s amazing they demand absolute respect, as they should. Thank you for stopping in today!

  5. No, I have not been and yet would like to go to see this honor in person! This book is another amazing read by Shanna!!

  6. Yes, I have been there, and it was an amazing experience. My daughter’s friend’s husband worked there and was able to give us a “behind the scenes” tour in the early hours one morning and that was truly special. He gave us a lot of information that is not usually shared with the public so we had a wonderful tour. I treasure that visit there!

  7. Yes, Ron and I have been to Arlington and were touched by the reverence displayed there. So touching to read names of beloved people who served our country. It is awing to experience the tomb of the unknown soldier. Sacred. I am thankful we could go and pay our respects.

  8. Oooh, I love the premise of your new book, Shanna! And I love how opposite your hero and heroine are. Leave it to you to write something different and compelling. Visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has long been on my bucket list.

    Must have your book. Congrats, my friend!

    • You are always so sweet, Pam. Thank you! It was neat to write about their different personalities. I have Arlington on my bucket list too!
      Thanks again, lovely friend!

  9. I have not been but hope to some day! I think it would be so special to be able to go there and walk through there and to watch the changing of the guards. As to somewhere special I have been…. probably anywhere with my family has been special. Whether it be the beach, the redwoods, the mountains. Watching the excitement and wonder on my kids faces as they explore new places is special to me.

    • I love what you shared about anyplace you go with your family being special! So awesome! <3 I’m with you on Arlington – I think it would be wonderful to see the changing of the guards. Thanks for popping in today, Kimberly! Happy June!

  10. I haven’t been to Arlington. I knew it was built on Lee’s property, though! The only place I’ve been to that compares is Andersonville. I’ve been there twice.

  11. welcome today. thanks for sharing this information. my son, who is a history major (ok history has been his life since he was 7) did the same as you. He had to look this information up. But you have brought even more info to the forefront. Thanks. No I have never been there, but would so love to go. As a family one year, we went to see the Trail of Tears. Oh my gosh. I get goose bumps just writing about it. I am part Cherokee. So it was especially meaningful to me. I knew my great grandmother who was 100% Cherokee. A beautiful lady with a work ethic I have never seen before, but admired greatly. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    • How fun about your son’s love of history. That’s awesome!
      Oh, I would love to see the Trail of Tears someday. How neat you have Cherokee members in your family tree and you have good memories of her. So sweet!
      Thank you for stopping in today!

  12. This is fascinating history of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. My husband has related some of it to me but your findings far exceed the tiny bit I knew before reading this. Your book, including a retired Sentinel, sounds very exciting and touching. I look forward to reading it in the near future.

    • In addition to my comments above, No, I have never been to Arlington. I have been in Washington D.C. but not there.

      • I have a question as to the reason Maureen O’Hara was buried in Arlington. Was she formerly in the service or married to an officer in the service? Thank you for the reply

    • Hi Judy! Thank you. It was so interesting (and touching) to research.
      I believe Maureen O’Hara’s husband was buried there and she choose her final resting place beside him.
      Thanks for stopping in today!

  13. I haven’t visited Arlington but the history interests me greatly. I would love to take a road trip and I know it would be worthwhile. and fascinating.

  14. I enjoyed your post about Arlington Cemetery. Your book sounds captivating. I hope to one day visit Arlington since historical sites interest me very much.

  15. I have never been there!

    I always like to visit the Big Thicket National Preserve when I’m in southeast TX, since my great-great-grandfather was R.E. Jackson, the founder. My grandparents still live right there, and we like to go hiking in the park with them when we visit. I love the piney woods! And thanks to the Preserve they’re protected for generations to enjoy.


  16. I’ve never visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but I have been to a few Civil War sites and it really made an impact on me. To think of what all those who fought went through, and to be able to stand on the very ground they fought on, it’s just very moving.

  17. I’m not a traveler. I’ve never went far from home. I refuse to fly and long drives don’t sound like fun to me. Furthest place I’ve been was Wisconsin Dells a few hours away from where I live and haven’t done that since just out of high school.

  18. Yes, I have been two times. Once when I was approximately 10 yrs old, with my parents and siblings, and again when I was about 30 yrs old, with my hubby and daughters. When I was younger, the most memorable thing was JFK’s grave and the eternal flame. When older, I just realized how unfair the taking of the land was at first, then how it was a good thing for the people, and how absolutely beautiful it was to look down from that house down on to the cemetery. I would have fought to keep my house and property, too, back then, for sure! It’s just such a beautiful piece of property! I’m so thankful that we have such a restful, beautiful place for our soldiers to be laid to rest. Shanna, your book sounds sooo good!! Can’t wait to read it!

    • Hi Lana, That’s so neat you were able to go twice. Oh, I so look forward to seeing Arlington someday. Thank you so much about my book! Wishing you beautiful days ahead!

  19. Yes, I have been to Arlington. It is one of the most humbling places I have ever been. And the Tomb of the Unknown there are no words to describe the feelings that go through you. Have to have this book.

  20. I have been to Arlington my brother is buried there next to his 1st wife. I learned yrs ago that Robert E Lee’s wife gave the land to the govt to honor all soldiers.

    • Hi Emma,
      I’m so sorry you had those losses in your family, and I truly appreciate the service and sacrifices made. The story of the land is amazing. Thank you so much for stopping in today!

  21. good afternoon i have never been to Arlington but the article is very informative . looking forward to your book enjoyed the other ones

  22. I’ve never been, but I would like to. I find it interesting learning about the Sentinels and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I read another book that talked about it, and I have so much respect for those soldiers serving as Sentinels. Reading Lake Bride now and loving it!!

    • Hi Britney,
      That’s neat you read another book that talked about it. What the sentinels do is amazing. So much respect for them and their service.
      So glad you are enjoying Lake Bride. Thanks so much for reading it and popping in today!
      All my best!

  23. I have not had the privilege of being able to visit Arlington. But I have seen the Vietnam Memorial wall 12 years ago when our son graduated from basic training in Fort Bennington Georgia the wall was being displayed at that time there. I was able to look up my sister’s fiancé, who died during that war. We we’re blessed to have our son return to us whole in body, but no one goes through fighting in a war unscathed. When I read about Bridget’s time as a sentinel, I had to stop reading and look up videos on you tube of the changing of the guard. It was fascinating and I’d love to see that and Arlington!!!!

    • Hi Kristie,
      Thank you to your son for his service and your family for the sacrifices made. I so appreciate military families!
      That’s great you were able to see the Vietnam Memorial, but so sorry about your sister’s fiance being among those who passed.
      I hope you someday get to visit Arlington. It’s on my bucket list now!
      Thanks so much!

  24. Hi Shanna , I have never visited the Arlington Cemetery, but now I sure would love to . My father in law passed away this past February and he was a Military veteran and so he was buried in Calif. in a Military cemetery, which is a very beautiful place. Your book sounds like a very great read and the story sounds like a beautiful love story. Thank you so much for making this so very interesting and sun a very good learning experience, I did not know alot of these facts that you shared. Have a great evening. I am looking forward to reading Henley and now I really want to read your new book.

    • I’m so sorry about your father-in-law passing, but how lovely he’s in a military cemetery. My condolences to you and your family.
      Thank you for visiting the blog today and for your kind words!

  25. I’ve never made it to the tomb (nor to Arlington) but it is on my list of places to go when I can explore the area a little more. I love visiting any place that is rich in history.

  26. Yes, I had been there as a teenager. I was overwhelmed with the number of white tombstones. The graveyard is so well maintained. It is so beautiful and peaceful. We were able to see the changing of the guard. It was a very moving ceremony. It made me think of how much others have given for our freedom throughout the years. Thank nyou for sharing. God bless you.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie! I so look forward to going someday and seeing it and just reflecting on all the sacrifices made for our freedoms.
      Have a beautiful summer!

  27. I have been there, unfortunately it was when I was a tween and didn’t understand it’s importance. I would love to go back.

  28. This is on my to-visit list when we make a trip back East. I would love to take a historical tour up and down the East Coast.

  29. Yes, I my wife and I have visited Arlington National Cemetery. I personally considered the visit to be a sacred pilgrimage. As a Vietnam vet, I’ve also visited the Vietnam Memorial three times, the WW II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. On a trip to the UK, we also visited a WW II American military cemetery near Cambridge. It is our patriotic duty to pay homage to the men and women who have fought for our freedom and liberty throughout our history. Remembering the words of former President Ronald Reagan, we are only a generation away from tyranny if we forget that we must fight when necessary to protect our American way of life. The Brits have nothing on us concerning tradition. The 24-hour ceremony around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most unforgettable and moving experiences of my entire life. Everyone should witness this.

    • Hi Jeffrey,
      Thank you so much for your service!
      That is wonderful you’ve been able to visit Arlington National Cemetery, and several other memorials, including the one near Cambridge. It is so important to honor those who served. Thanks again for your service and sacrifices!

  30. No, I have never been to Arlington Cemetery even though my husband’s brother is buried there. We are both history buffs and our vacations always include historical sites. I think the ones that touched me most were Lexington and Concord, and Gettysburg.

    • Hi Elaine,
      How neat you both are history buffs! Those are all places I want to visit someday. I’m sorry about your husband’s brother passing. It’s nice he was laid to rest in such a beautiful place. Wishing you lovely summer days ahead!

  31. Yes, I have been to Arlington Cemetery several times and it has always been very special. What brave and courageous soldiers our country has been honored to bury there! Sadly young people today have little respect for our service men and women who have fought to keep our country free. History records these stories, but who is reading or listening to them anymore. Parents, please teach your children of the rich heritage our country has endured. We must hand it down to more and more generations. Let us NEVER FORGET!!

  32. Okay I’m totally geeking out in advance for this book! One of our daughters best friends in HS was a guard for the Tomb of The Unknowns. That creed follows then throughout their life, even after they separate. And the honor and medals can be taken away even later in life if they don’t maintain the creed. Arlington is an amazing place to visit, 2nd only to the Gettysburg cemetery IMHO.

  33. That is so neat your daughter’s friend was a Sentinel! From what I researched, they do live that creed even after their service has ended. Thanks for stopping in! I hope you love Bridger and Shayla’s story!

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