Local vet crafts gun racks for Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 24, 2020

A local veteran and Dillwyn native was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he was tasked this year to craft a pair of gun racks for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Since 1921, the memorial has served as the final resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members, with Unknowns from later wars added in 1958 and 1984.

Victor Moss, 71, of Buckingham, was born and raised in the Town of Dillwyn. He served two years in the U.S. Army in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam.

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After returning to the U.S., Moss went into construction work. Now retired from his career with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), he currently serves as commander of Buckingham Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8446.

A talented man, Moss has always had a passion for woodworking. And like so many Americans, Moss carries with him the utmost respect for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, including the Tomb Guards who stand watch over the hallowed ground no matter the weather, day and night.

The Tomb is a powerful, moving place of mourning, and also serves a site for reflection of military service. Although it’s been approximately 40 years since Moss visited the location himself, he still remembers the profoundness of the experience.

“That was a very special day,” he recalled.

But when Moss visited the site, he had no idea some four decades later his own work would be on display at the Tomb.

Moss explained that another member of Post 8446, David Ogden, owns a piece of land just off of Route 20 between Dillwyn and Scottsville. Guests, including those from Arlington, are known to come down to the property during hunting season.

That’s how Ogden came into contact with Assistant Sergeant of the Guard Alexander Deal.

Through Deal, Ogden learned the Tomb Guards were in need of a new set of rifle racks to hold their guns. The previous racks, located in the guards’ living quarters where they eat, sleep, dress, train and prepare themselves for guard duty, were well-worn and had served their purpose over the years, and an upgrade was in order.

Ogden knew just the man for the job.

Through the decades, Moss has embarked on many woodworking projects. He can often be found crafting objects like cabinets, and during his most recent project he took apart a log cabin and rebuilt it on his own property.

“It’s kind of a hobby, but sometimes it turns into a job,” he said of his carpentry skills.

After learning what Deal was looking for, Moss went straight to work. Using wood donated by Wayne Davis of Buckingham, he crafted an ornate and detailed set of gun racks. Built out of walnut and featuring raised panels, the racks took approximately three weeks of off-and-on work.

With such an important destination in mind, Moss’ project wasn’t devoid of pressure.

“You want it to be perfect, you know?” he said. “I really was worried about the outcome of it, how it would look. My wife tells me I’m my worst critic.”

Although the project began in August, the COVID-19 pandemic threw some kinks into the process. Nevertheless, Moss was able to finish the racks, which were transported by Capt. Joshua Akers and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Hickman to the site of the Tomb.

Due to the pandemic, Moss has not yet been able to travel up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the installation of his work. The hope is that Moss and Davis may be able to travel up to Arlington in the near future for a presentation to honor their efforts.

But the opportunity alone was a great honor to Moss.

“It means a lot. It really does,” he said. “This is not just something that comes up every day. For me, it’s once in a lifetime for me to be able to do something like this. I’ve always had a lot of respect for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for the guys who are on duty.

“These guys are out there rain, snow,” he added. It doesn’t really matter what the weather is. They’re going to be walking.”