A Memory Guarded

On Monday, President Obama laid a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknowns calling it “a monument to a common thread in the American character.” He invited us to never forget their sacrifices.

Recognition. Congress approved Resolution 67 March 4, 1921 beginning burial of The Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). By November 11, the first unknown was interred at ANC.  In 1926, Congress authorized the Tomb’s completion.

Dedication. It took 75 men one year to quarry the 124-ton Yule marble block for the Tomb. Carved in both the North and South panels, 3 wreaths containing 38 leaves and 12 berries represent the 6 major battles of WWI. The East panel, which faces Washington, D.C., contains 3 Greek figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor. “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known but to God” is inscribed on the West panel.

Respect. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, a unit serving since 1784 and known as the “Old Guard”, protect The Tomb 24-hours a day, every day of the year. To avoid inadvertently outranking The Unknowns, these Sentinels don’t wear rank insignia. Guards must pass a rigorous process to serve, and have the ability to earn the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge if they can pass tests and serve appropriately. Only 400 soldiers wear the Badge making it the most rare U.S. Army award.

Honor.  The highest military honor, the 21-gun salute, influences the meticulous routine of the Tomb Guards. Marching 21-steps south over the black mat which lays across The Tomb (called “walking the mat”), guards turn east facing The Tomb for 21-seconds. They then turn and face north for 21-seconds changing their weapon to the outside shoulder before marching 21 steps back down the mat and turning toward The Tomb again for 21 seconds. Weapons are carried on the outside shoulder signifying the Guard stands between The Unknowns and a possible threat. The routine repeats continually until the “Changing of the Guard.”

“Soldiers never die until they are forgotten. Tomb guards never forget”

~ The motto of The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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