Tomb Of The Unknowns


We have all seen images like the one below of the fortitude with which the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns conduct themselves. In weather fair or foul, they are there:

Recently, a friend had some facts about the Honor Guard who protect the Tomb of the Unknowns. I did a quick check to see if everything contained within the post was accurate. Most of it was, but some of it was not according to Snopes, which had the links to the sites affiliated with Arlington National Cemetery and the Society of the Honor Guard.

What the Honor Guard does in order to serve at the Tomb of the Unknowns is nothing short of impressive. But even more than the actual requirements (more on that below), is the sentiment of those who serve on the Honor Guard. Their respect and devotion are awe-inspiring. See for yourselves:

The level of precision, attention to detail, required learning, all of that, is an indication of the reverence with which these Guards view their service. It is touching, and humbling, to hear them speak of their duty.

As promised, here are some of the expectations and requirements for the Honor Guard at the Tomb. From the Arlington National Cemetery site:

The Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.

Changing of the GuardAfter members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry become ceremonially qualified, they are eligible to volunteer for duty as sentinels at the Tomb. If accepted, they are assigned to Company E of The Old Guard. Each soldier must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall, with a proportionate weight and build. An interview and a two-week trial to determine a volunteer’s capability to train as a tomb guard is required.

During the trial phase, would-be sentinels memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a “walk.” A walk occurs between guard changes. A daytime walk is one-half hour in the summer and one hour in the winter. All night walks are one hour.

If a soldier passes the first training phase, “new-soldier” training begins. New sentinels learn the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans. They learn the guard-change ceremony and the manual of arms that takes place during the inspection portion of the Changing of the Guard. Sentinels learn to keep their uniforms and weapons in immaculate condition.

The sentinels will be tested to earn the privilege of wearing the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge after several months of serving. First, they are tested on their manual of arms, uniform preparation and their walks. Then, the Badge Test is given. The test is 100 randomly selected questions of the 300 items memorized during training on the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns. The would-be badge holder must get more than 95 percent correct to succeed. Only 400 Tomb Guard Badges have been awarded since it was created in February 1958.

What exceptional people these Guards are. Their willingness to withstand the elements, to work on their days off, to submit themselves to such exacting standards day in and out, speaks volumes to their commitment, drive, devotion, and service.
And then there is the actual Changing of the Guard ceremony itself, one which also has specific standards, along with the duty time itself:
The guard is changed every hour on the hour Oct. 1 to March 31 in an elaborate ritual. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5 to 7 p.m.

An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.

The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknowns who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor. Then the relief commander orders the relieved sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the black mat. When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed — the 21-gun salute. […] (Click here to read more.)

I have yet to see this in person, but it is certainly a “Bucket List” item. I regret the one time I had the option to have an “Insider’s Tour” at Arlington National Cemetery with a colleague of mine who is a Marine Chaplain, I was unable to go. I hope to change that in the not-too-distant future.

If you have more questions about the Honor Guard and their requirements, their Society has a section for “Frequently Asked Questions” available here.


So that’s what is on my mind for this Weekend Open Thread. The very impressive service of the Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Well, that and just having gotten home from the hospital post-cervical fusion, that is. It may be a while before I respond to Comments, as well as write another post. As always, my deepest thanks to KenoshaMarge for sharing her thoughts, insights, and cartoons when the Spirit moves.

Hope you all have a great weekend!




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25 Responses to “Tomb Of The Unknowns”

  1. kenoshamarge Says:

    What a wonderfully informative post Rev! Thank you. I knew some of this but like most Americans I suspect I took it for granted. I didn’t know what it took to have duty at the Tomb.

    I always respected those who walked their post at the Tomb of the Unknowns but now I have not only respect but awe at the dedication and willingness to give so much for those who gave their all.

    It is comforting to know that with all the turmoil in this country there are still men and women who walk their post to honor all those that gave their all. Wonderful.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thanks so much, Marge. It is really impressive what these Guards undergo, and with such a sense of reverence to their duty. It is indeed comforting to know they are there…

  2. kenoshamarge Says:

    CNN Host Has Quite the Reaction to Photo of Trump Praying

    CNN host Erin Burnett was heading into a commercial break on Wednesday when she teased a photo (seen below) of evangelical leaders laying hands on and praying for President Donald Trump.

    While the picture seems pretty self explanatory, Burnett had apparently never seen someone pray before. Clearly taken aback, she called the solemn moment “pretty stunning” and “very strange.”

    What is “strange” to me is that some like Burnett finds an image of prayer “strange”. Others will and probably already have called it phony that Trump is praying. They might like to think about the number of sinners that discover, or re-discover their faith as they get closer to the Pearly Gates. And they should also remember that sinner need prayer more than the rest of us.

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      The Parable of the Lost Sheep is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in the Gospels of Matthew (Matthew 18:12–14) and Luke (Luke 15:3–7). It is about a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one which is lost.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Well, that s pretty telling in and of itself, isn’t it? That Burnett was “taken aback” by seeing people pray for someone? THAT is what is strange, not that religious leaders were praying for the POTUS.

      Great Scripture to go with this, Marge. Thank you!

  3. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Dear Helen, knowing how much I love dancing flash mobs, put this excellent video on my Facebook page. I love seeing these young people doing this kind of dancing:

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      Big band and the kind of dancing my mom taught me when I was little. I love it. I am still a fan of both and have many CDs of big bands.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        There is something very special abt that music and the dances that go along with it. How cool that your mom taught you some of those dances!

        • kenoshamarge Says:

          Yup, I was a great little Fox Trotter and then fell in love with the Jitterbug. That was a good basis for all the dances I later loved when I was a teenager.

          • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

            Oh, wow – that is so cool, Marge! What fun! And yes, a great foundation for your teenage years, I’d imagine. Neat!

  4. kenoshamarge Says:

  5. kenoshamarge Says:

    WATCH: Random Walmart Customer Picks Up Intercom and Proceeds to Bring the House Down

    More proof, if we needed it, that good, decent, patriotic people are out there. We are not alone. It’s just that the others get more attention. Thank God for men like James Fruits who sang our National Anthem so well and for the good Wal~Mart customers who applauded him for doing it.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thank God indeed, Marge. And thank you for this important reminder that we are not alone, that many people care abt this country as deeply as we do. Great reminder. Thank you!

  6. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I woke up to some sad news. My former sister in law, and the mother of four nieces and one nephew (all of the girls are redheads, like their mother and my brother), passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. Her oldest daughter, the first niece/grandchild in the family, was with her.

    Needless to say, this is a very difficult time for the kids, though there is also relief that their dear mother is no longer in such pain. Still, as many of us here know, there is nothing in the world like losing a mother…

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      So sorry for the loss. If there was no chance that she could get better it is well that the Lord took her home to him so that she will suffer no more pain.

      For the family it leaves a hole in the heart that will always be there. But in time, and this always sounds so cliche to those who are missing a loved one, the pain will ease and the memories will live on. So long as you remember, no one ever dies. JMO.

      Once during a long hot and very dry summer my Mom and I were walking across the back yard when I suggested to her since she was 1/4 Sioux and I was therefore 1/8th Sioux we should do a “rain dance” and see what happened. We did a few steps and laughed.

      It rained for a week.

      Now I’m sure our silly little “rain dance” had nothing to do with it. But we laughed about it and after the 4th day Mom said, “Well genius, any idea how to do an un-rain dance?” We had a good laugh as we trudged through the mud to do chores and that’s a memory I will always treasure.

      She’s not with me, but she’s alive and still making me laugh in my memory.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        Thank you, Marge. And yes, every treatment had been tried, often more than once. It became clear that nothing was going to cure her cancer, and the treatment just made her feel bad all of the time. So yeah, as hard as it was for her kids and her husband (a nurse, btw – as was my former s-i-l), it was the right decision.

        Still, as you know, losing a mother is hard, hard. In time, they will be able to look back on their memories, have a few laughs, and appreciate all their mom was and is to them. For now, it is just pain…

        I LOVE that story abt your mother!! That is fantastic! Ahahaha. And what a great memory to have of her. No doubt she was one amazing lady, and I know you miss her still. Thank heavens for those memories…

  7. kenoshamarge Says:

  8. kenoshamarge Says:

  9. kenoshamarge Says:

    Church Signs

    Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!

    Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.

    Searching for a new look? Have your faith lifted here!

    An ad for a Church has a picture of two hands holding stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed and a headline that reads, “For fast, fast, fast relief, take two tablets.

    When the restaurant next to the Church put out a big sign that said, “Open Sundays,” the church reciprocated with its own message: “We are open on Sundays, too.”

    Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons — come hear one!

    Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush!

    Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.

    If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.

  10. kenoshamarge Says:

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