Never did Sgt. 1st Class Devin McCann expect he would be where he was on Memorial Day — helping President Barack Obama place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
A Georgia native whose parents live in White County, he participated in the solemn ceremony Monday at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
McCann, 38, has held the job of guarding the tomb for a year, his work calling for him to precisely walk 21 steps, then turn and face the tomb for 21 seconds before returning to repeat the maneuver.
The number refers to the 21-gun salute, the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
He is platoon sergeant for the tomb guards, who are members of the 3rd U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as The Old Guard. The group is the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the president.
McCann has the utmost respect for what — and whom — the tomb represents.
"They gave the ultimate sacrifice, basically their life and their identity, for us," he said. "Laying the wreath with the president really adds to (the honor)."
His parents, John and Barbara McCann of Cleveland, say they are proud of their son and the heights he has reached in his military career.
"We taped the whole ceremony on television, because we couldn't be there," his mother said. "And it was really nice to see."
Devin McCann told his parents they would have had to arrive at the tomb at an "ungodly hour" to view the ceremony.
"Once the president comes into Arlington, (the cemetery) is shut down and wherever the public is at the time, they've got to stay (where they are)," Barbara McCann said.
Devin McCann grew up in the Milledgeville area and moved to the D.C. area after returning from a tour in Iraq, where he received the Bronze Star. He served for a time as a drill instructor at Fort Benning near Columbus.
Once in Virginia, he worked as a drill master.
"When I got offered the (Old Guard) position, I jumped on it and took it," McCann said.
McCann has been in the military for 18 1/2 years.
"I've enjoyed every bit of it," he said.
He plans to retire after he hits 20 years, then "stay up here and continue to serve the military as a civilian."