Guarding the Unknown

ARLINGTON CEMETERY

Jeopardy Question:

On Jeopardy awhile back, the final question was “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?”   All three contestants missed it!

This is really an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

1.)  How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

Answer:  21 steps – It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

2.)  How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?

Answer:  21 seconds – For the same reason as answer number 1

3.)  Why are his gloves wet?

Answer:  His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

4.)  Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and , if not, why not?

Answer:  He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

5.)  How often are the guards changed?

Answer:  Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

6.)  What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

Answer:  For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5′ 10′ and 6′ 2′ tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30 inches.

They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.

They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn.

The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.  Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty..

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.

Among the notables are:
President Taft,
Joe Lewis {the boxer}
Medal of Honor winner Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII and of Hollywood fame.

In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC , our US Senate/House took 2 days off with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported that because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, “No way, Sir!” Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.

The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.

ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

tomb-sentry-sunshine-henry-kass-2005-photo-01

9 thoughts on “Guarding the Unknown

  1. It’s such a solemn ceremony, I’ve been witness to it many years ago. I’ve read This before and enjoyed reading this again. The commitment our service men and women make everyday is astounding. Good share on this Memorial Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SB! I knew I saw a post from you along the way, so went back a bit. Apologize for my tardiness.

    I have never known much about this tradition, so this is all a bit stunning. That level of dedication is incredible, especially because it follows after their duty is done, into their private lives. Never knew that this was the case… and then standing out in a tropical storm, that is really amazing. I find this kind of thing incredibly moving, and glad I learned something about it. Always have such respect for people of dedication, as I don’t have much patience for dedication myself.

    Hope you’re well out there… Trent

    Liked by 1 person

    • NB!!! It’s been a day or two eh? Glad to see you’re still kicking around and even glader, heehee, that you stopped by. I’ve missed ya.
      Yes, these are some pretty dedicated individuals right there. I’ve seen the Changing of the Guard on a couple occasions and it’s quite a site. Brings you to tears. I don’t think most people know everythinig about this posting, most specifically, the continuing commitment when their two years are over. For all who were never found, or never identified, I can think of no better group of soldiers to honor them.
      We’ll have to catch up soon…it’s been way too long…R

      Like

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