Tomb of the Unknowns

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier         First Part Sent In by: Peter Knowles 10/09/07
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1.How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?
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?
21 seconds for the same  reason as answer number 1
3. Why are his gloves wet?
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?
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?
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?
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." Other requirements of the Guard: 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 {fighting} 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.

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 E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame.

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.


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 serviceperson. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7/365, since 1930.

Sunday, October 12, 2003 6:17 PM... Recieved 10/13/03
The Third Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer has the responsibility for providing ceremonial units and honor guards for state occasions, White House social functions, public celebrations and interments at Arlington National Cemetery....and standing a very formal sentry watch at the Tombs of the Unknowns.

The public is familiar with the precision of what is called "walking post" at the Tombs. There are roped off galleries where visitors can form to observe the troopers and their measured step and almost mechanical silent rifle shoulder changes. They are relieved every hour in a very formal drill that has to be seen to believe. Some people think that when the Cemetery is closed to the public in the evening in the evening that this show stops.

First, to the men who who are dedicated to this is no is a "charge of honor". The formality and precision continues uninterrupted all night. During the nighttime, the drill of relief and the measured step of the on duty sentry remain unchanged from the daylight hours. To these men...these special men, the continuity of this post is the key to the honor and respect shown to these honored dead, symbolic of all American unaccounted for American combat dead. The steady rhythmic step in rain, sleet, snow, hail, hot, cold...bitter cold...uninterrupted...uninterrupted is the important part of the honor shown.

Last night, while you were sleeping, the teeth of hurricane Isabel came through this area and tore hell out of everything... We have thousands of trees down...power outages...traffic signals out...roads filled with downed limbs and "gear adrift" debris...We have flooding...and the place looks like it has been the impact area of an off shore bombardment. The Regimental Commander of the U.S. Third Infantry sent word to the nighttime Sentry Detail to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds, to ensure their personal safety. THEY DISOBEYED THE ORDER...During winds that turned over vehicles and turned debris into projectiles...the measured steps continued. One fellow said "I've got buddies getting shot at in Iraq who would kick my butt if word got to them that we let them down...I sure as hell have no intention of spending my Army career being known as the g----m idiot who couldn't stand a little light breeze and shirked his duty."

Then he said something in response to a female reporters question regarding silly purposeless personal risk...."I wouldn't expect you to understand. it's an enlisted man's thing."

God Bless the rascal...In a time in our nation's history when spin and total b------t seems to have become the accepted coin-of-the-realm, there beat hearts...the enlisted hearts we all knew and were so d--n proud to be a part of...that fully understand that devotion to duty is not a part time occupation. While we slept, we were represented by some d--n fine men who fully understood their post orders and proudly went about their assigned responsibilities unseen, unrecognized and in the finest tradition of the American Enlisted Man. Folks, there's hope....The gene that George S. Patton...Arliegh Burke and Jimmy Doolittle left us...survives. Now, go have another cup to pop rivet your eyelids I've got to go to work. DN From a sub vet friend in our nation's capital~


Nina Swink adds.....

On the ABC evening news, it was reported tonight that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabel approaching Washington DC, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They refused. "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.

Addition to this e: I saw an interview on Fox News Channel with the Commander of the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the unknown. He took the shift when Isabel was unleashing her fury, because he did not want to ask any of his men to do this - he felt it was his highest honor to be on duty during that time.

Very, very proud of our persons in uniform!!!!!!

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