Veteran’s Day

As we salute the veterans who have ever served in a war, with parades and white sales, I thought it would be fitting to give you some facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The tomb, known both as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Tomb of the Unknowns, has never been officially named and stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, DC. A mostly flat marble structure, it is relieved at the corners and the east side, which faces Washington, DC has sculpted panels, each with Greek figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor. This sarcophagus is placed over the first unknown soldier, who was selected by Army Sgt Edward F Younger when four unknowns were exhumed from a World War I American cemetery in France. Each casket was identical and Younger chose the one who would be transported back to the United States by placing a spray of white roses one of them. It was the third from the left. The remaining three were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery in France. Three crypts of unknowns, one each from WWII, The Korean War and the Vietnam War lay to the west of the original tomb and are indicated with white marble slabs.

The tomb is guarded constantly, even though the guard himself is being changed every 30 minutes, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The guard paces 21 steps across the tomb and waits 21 seconds before making an about face. The number 21 alludes to the 21 gun salute, the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.

When the guard turns, his rifle is then moved to the shoulder facing away from the tomb, thus constantly changing its position. He also keeps his gloves moistened so as not to lose his grip on his rifle.

A guard must meet specific requirements. He must stand between 5’10” and 6’2″ and have a waist size that does not exceed 30″. He must commit 2 years of his life to guard the tomb, must live in the barracks beneath it and on not drink alcohol on or off duty, swear in public or disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way for the rest of his life.

His shoes are made of specially thick soles to guard against the cold and there are metal heel plates that extend to the toe to make a clicking sound as they come to a halt. The uniform must be kept free of wrinkles, folds and lint. Five hours a day are spent getting the uniform ready for guard duty.

For the first six months of duty, the guard is not allowed to watch television and must study the notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, who they are and where they are interred.

After his two year service, he is given a wreath pin which commands the same degree of respect otherwise it must be surrendered. 

  tomb of the unknown soldier






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