is the tomb of the unknown soldier always guarded
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Society of the Honor Guard
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the guard rotation work? Is it an 8 hour shift?
Currently, the Tomb Guards work on a three Relief (team) rotation - 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 96 hours off. However, over the years it has been different. The time off isn't exactly free time. It takes the average Sentinel 8 hours to prep their uniform for the next work day. Additionally, they have Physical Training, Tomb Guard training, and haircuts to complete before the next work day.
How many steps does the Sentinel take during their 'walk' by the Tomb of the Unknowns and why?
Twenty-one steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
How long does the Sentinel hesitate after the facing movement to begin the return walk? Is the rifle carried on the same shoulder all the time?
The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the the Guard Change ceremony begins.
Why are the Sentinel's gloves wet?
Gloves are moistened to improve the grip on the rifle.
How often are the Guards changed?
The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sep 30) and every hour during the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). During the hours the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every 2 hours. The Tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every day since 1937.
Is it true a Sentinel must commit for two years 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.
No, this is a false rumor. The average tour at the Tomb is about a 18 months. However, there is NO set time for service there. Sentinels live either in a barracks on Ft. Myer (the Army post located adjacent to the cemetery) or off base if they like. They do have a living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater where they stay during their 24 hour shifts. If they are of legal age, they may drink except while on duty.
Is it true they cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives?
Again, another false rumor.
Is it true after two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as Guard of the Tomb, that there are only 600 presently worn, and that the Guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin?
The Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB) is awarded after the Sentinel passes a series of tests. The TGIB is permanently awarded after a Sentinel has served nine months as a Sentinel at the Tomb. Over 600 have been awarded since its creation in the late 1950's (on average 10 per year). And while the TGIB can be revoked, the offense must be such that it discredits the Tomb of the Unknowns. Revocation is at the 3rd Infantry Regimental Commander’s discretion and can occur while active duty or even when the Sentinel is a civilian. The TGIB is a full size award, worn on the right pocket of the uniform jacket, not a lapel pin.
Are the shoes specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet?
The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand with a straight back and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can "roll" on the outside of the build up walking down the mat. Done correctly, the hat and bayonet will appear to not "bob" up and down with each step. It gives a more formal, fluid and smooth look to the walk, rather than a "marching" appearance.
The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a "horseshoe" steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.
Then there is the "clicker". It is a shank of steel attached to the inside of the face of the heel build-up on each shoe. It allows the Sentinel to heel click during certain movements. A guard change is considered great when all the heel clicks fall together and sound as one click. The guard change is occasionally done in the "silent" mode (as a sign of devotion to the Unknowns) with no voice commands - every thing is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts.
How many times will a Sentinel be on duty during the shift?
Each Relief has a 24 hour rotational work day. Ideally, four qualified Sentinels, one Relief Commander (RC), one Assistant Relief Commander (ARC), and several Sentinels in training comprise the Relief. The daily walk schedule is made by the RC or ARC and is dependent on the number of Sentinels who are proficient enough to guard the Tomb in front of the public. Generally, the Sentinel will do several walks back to back and then be done for the day. However, in extreme cases, Sentinels have been known to go back-to-back (every other walk) for the entire shift.
How do the Soldiers get to and from the quarters without being seen?
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Arlington)
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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Arlington)
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This article is about the monument in the U.S. National Cemetery. For similar monuments, see Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
For other uses, see Unknown Soldier (disambiguation).
Tomb Guard on post, 2018
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a historic monument dedicated to deceased U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, United States. The World War I "Unknown" is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, and several other foreign nations' highest service awards. The U.S. Unknowns who were interred are also recipients of the Medal of Honor, presented by U.S. presidents who presided over their funerals. The monument has no officially designated name.
1 Tomb of 1921 2 Tomb of 1931
3 The Unknown of World War I
4 The Unknowns of World War II and Korea
5 The Unknown of Vietnam
5.1 Identification of the Unknown
5.2 Redesignation of the crypt
6 Tomb Guards 6.1 Weapons 6.2 Walking the mat
6.3 Changing of the Guard
7 Damage and repair to the Tomb Monument
8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 Further reading 12 External links
Tomb of 1921
Tomb as of November 11, 1922. The Tomb of 1931 would occupy this same location.
Part of the delegation at the Tomb in 1921, alongside Crow Nation chief Alaxchíia Ahú ("Plenty Coups")
On March 4, 1921, the United States Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater. On November 11, 1921, the unknown soldier brought back from France was interred below a three-level marble tomb. The bottom two levels are six granite sections each and the top at least nine blocks with a rectangular opening in the center of each level through which the unknown remains were placed through the tomb and into the ground below. A stone slab, rather than marble, covers the rectangular opening.
Tomb of 1931
Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis (left) and Major General B. F. Cheatham, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, inspect the accepted model and design for the completion of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (1928). The design by sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones and architect Lorimer Rich was selected after a competition in which 73 designs were submitted.
Placing the marble sarcophagus on top of the Tomb (1931)
Since 1921 the intent was to place a superstructure on top of the Tomb, but it was not until July 3, 1926, that Congress authorized the completion of the Tomb and the expenditure of $50,000 (with a completed cost of $48,000). A design competition was held and won by architect Lorimer Rich[nb 1] and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones. An appropriation from Congress for the work was secured and on December 21, 1929, a contract for completion of the Tomb itself was entered into. The Tomb would consist of seven pieces of marble in four levels (cap, die, base and sub-base) of which the die is the largest block with the sculpting on all four sides.
Quarrying the Yule marble (3.9 miles south of Marble, Colorado by the Vermont Marble Company) was a one-year process beginning in 1930. The cap was quarried on the first attempt but the base required three tries. The large middle block also required three tries. In late January 1931, the 56-ton middle block was lifted out of the quarry. The quarrying involved 75 men. When the block was separated from the mountain inside the quarry it weighed 124 tons. A wire saw was then brought into the quarry to cut the block down to 56 tons.
On February 3, 1931, the block reached the marble mill site (in the town of Marble) after a four-day trip from the quarry. There it was crated, then shipped to Vermont on February 8. The block was sawed to final size in West Rutland, Vermont, and fabricated by craftsmen in Proctor, Vermont, before it was shipped by train to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. By September, all seven blocks were on the grounds of the Tomb site, at Arlington.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Facts & Complete Information Guide
Honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and learn about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
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TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
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Learn about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Overlooking the nation’s capital from its serene 624-acre hilltop perch, Arlington National Cemetery is located on the resplendent west bank of the Potomac River. The hallowed ground serves as the final resting place for numerous presidents, Supreme Court justices, astronauts and other public servants, including more than 400,000 military personnel, veterans and their immediate families. This national landmark is the country’s largest and most important military cemetery. Still an active burial ground, it conducts over 25 funerals each weekday. The cemetery, Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Hemicycle and Arlington House make up the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District that was added to the National Historic Register in 2014.
HISTORY OF AN HONORED CEMETERY
Arlington National Cemetery occupies land once owned by George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted grandson of Martha and George Washington. He built the Arlington House as a memorial to the nation’s first president. In 1857, the property was bequeathed to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis who had married Robert E. Lee 26 years earlier. With the secession of Virginia from the Union, the family evacuated the property. Federal troops incorporated the land into their defensive fortifications around Washington. Part of the property was used as a Freedman’s Village where former slaves received assistance after their liberation.
As the number of casualties climbed during the Civil War, the federal government needed additional cemetery space to inter the dead. To meet this demand, 200 acres of the plantation was set aside as a cemetery. In May 1864, Private William Christman was the first military casualty to be buried in the newly created graveyard. The following month, the War Department designated the space as a national cemetery. After the war, George Washington Custis Lee sued the federal government for return of the land, which he argued had been seized illegally. In 1882, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor and the federal government paid Lee $150,000 for the property, which is equivalent to $3.2 million in 2016. Further along the landmark’s timeline, President Herbert Hoover oversaw the first Memorial Day ceremony on May 30, 1929.
THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
Despite the many distinguished and revered war heroes and two former U.S. Presidents buried there, there is nowhere within the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery that is more frequented by visitors than The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Located on a hill on high ground at almost the perfect geographic center of the cemetery, the tomb exemplifies valor and honor by remembering those who died committing brave and selfless acts with no one to bear witness to them. What is it about this place that so intrigues the many who visit it every year? What’s the story behind it and what does it take to become one of the select few to stand watch over it?
THE FIRST, BUT NOT THE LAST
On August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law whose purpose was to select and pay tribute to the fallen unknown soldiers of the Korean War and World War II (WWII) by interring them with honors in a specially designated area in Arlington National Cemetery. The idea of the tomb itself was initially inspired by the multitudes of unknown dead that had amassed by the end of World War I (WWI). It was in Great Britain, however, where the idea of honoring these forgotten warriors first took root in 1920. The following year, a burial ceremony was planned in the United States for an American unknown who died in Europe during the First World War. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from an American cemetery in France. The four were placed in identical caskets and placed before a highly decorated WWI veteran tasked with selecting one of the caskets for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. That person was U.S. Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger.
After the ceremonial selection was made, the body was to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda until midnight on November 10, 1921. On the following day, Armistice Day, the casket was placed in a caisson and transported to Arlington National Cemetery. During the procession, the casket was escorted by members of the military, President Warren G. Harding, Vice President Coolidge, Chief Justice Taft, and the remaining justices of the Supreme Court. Members of the Cabinet, Senate, and House along with several hand-picked Generals were also on hand to witness the presenting of the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross to the unknown dead. Also honored were unknowns each from Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, and Romania which marked the only time these medals were issued to foreign combatants. Years later after the end of the Second World War, the selection process for the next unknown soldier from that war had to be postponed with the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.
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