Cpl. William Long's grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery
A soldier with East Tennessee ties, who is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C., started his Army career working at the cemetery in the unit that helps bury soldiers.
Knoxville resident, Sue Cordner's son, Billy Long, grew up in Atlanta, GA but spent his summers in Knoxville as a kid. It's been five years since she has seen or touched Billy, her only child.
"He was very charismatic. He was a happy person. He was just happy. He loved to cut up. He liked order in his life," said Cordner.
Billy Long's love of order fueled his lifelong dream of becoming a soldier. He enlisted in the Army in 2001. Cordner recalled,"He was ready to go to Iraq and then he ended up doing something totally different."
Billy worked his way up the ranks in the Army, and was promoted to Corporal. He joined the 3rd Infantry Regiment, or the Old Guard, an elite group of soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery, and provide military honors at funerals.
"He worked in 600 burials in one shape or form. He did a lot of the escorting of the families and supporting the families while they're there," said Cordner.
Old guard members are stoic, have attention to detail, and uphold the highest standards of military tradition. After years of burying soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery that he didn't' know, members of his old guard unit buried Cpl. Long.
"Located where he is, he is there with other soldiers that believed the way he did," said Cordner.
Cpl. Long is interred in Section 60 along with more than 8,000 other soldiers. About 500 of those perished in Iraq, where he was killed. He was 26 years-old when he died.
"When he died, his Hum Bee was attacked by a rocket propelled grenade," said Cordner.
He deployed to Iraq in 2005 after voluntarily re-enlisting. Cpl. Long was a gunner, killed by enemy fire while on mounted patrol, close to midnight on June 17, 2005. The attack happened in Bhuriz, Iraq, 25 miles from Baghdad.
"If they're wounded it's a phone call. If they die it's two who come to your house to inform you," said Cordner.
Sue Cordner said Billy was supposed to be home on leave a few weeks after he was killed. Instead of planning for his homecoming, she planned his funeral.
"I don't want people to forget my son and he is buried in one of the most sacred places for a soldier to be buried," said Cordner.
Cpl. Long's story doesn't end at Arlington though. He was awarded numerous military medals, including the Purple Heart, and a permanent memorial at Fort Meyer in Virginia. The Motorpool building is named after Long because he was the first member of the Old Guard to be killed in Iraq.
Cordner said, "It makes me very proud. It's so nice to know, to have people recognize him who knew him as an adult."
The building is called the Veverka-Long Maintenance Facility. Staff Sergeant David Veverka was the second Old Guard member killed in Iraq. He died May 6, 2006.
Dozens of other soldiers with ties to East Tennessee are likely buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There's no way of knowing exactly how many because the cemetery does not sort soldier's names by where they're from.