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Local veterans bring rarest of military badges to Bladen County

tatumTwo of the rarest of military badges one can be awarded are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier badge and the Astronaut’s badge. Bladen County can proudly say that two of their veterans hold those two badges.

Edward Tatum lives in Elizabethtown and is the owner of Tatum Auto Sales in Lumberton. Tatum is a veteran having served from 1971 to 1973 as a sentinel guard in Arlington, Va. Tatum said he was with the Old Guard for one year and the Honor Guard for one year.

Tatum was a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1972 and 1973 and his guard badge number was 134. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours, seven days per week.

“I was one of the last people to get drafted. My number was 18. I had just finished college,” said Tatum.
He was present for several funerals. “I buried the last guy that was killed in Vietnam,” said Tatum.
Col. William Nolde  was killed on Jan. 27, 1973 and buried Feb. 5, 1973 in Arlington National Cemetery.

Tatum also appears in a documentary film about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The two least awarded military badges are The Astronaut Badge and The Tomb Guard Badge.  There has been 134 Astronaut  Badges and 614 Tomb Guard Badges awarded. Ironically, two of these badges were awarded to Bladen natives Astronaut Curtis Brown and Tomb Guard Ed Tatum.

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