Saturday, January 29, 2011


This beautiful explanation behind Arlington's Tomb of the Unknown and its Changing of the Guards ceremony should be more widely known than it is. 

(Some of this bothered me, so I went to to check the veracity.  I was unable to copy and paste the correct information.  Most of it is true, including the item about the hurricane.  Other items are incomplete, or just not factual.  If you are at all curious, check it out at snopes.)


Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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.

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 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.   (Snopes says that the off-duty hours are the soldier’s own).

   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 Lewis {the boxer) and Medal of Honor winner Audie L. Murphy.

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

 In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC , our U.S. Senate and House took 2 days off in 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.

Punny, if not funny -

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.

Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.


  1. I have been to Arlington National Cemetery twice and have watched the changing of the guard and also watched a wreath laying ceremony. It was beautiful and extremely emotional. Thanks for this information.

  2. I've been to Arlington, too but I was too young to appreciate it. My two memories of that trip when I was ten were of buying souvenir Confederate money (which had an interesting fake smell) and being car sick (like, pull-over NOW car sick. They did.)

  3. I've been there and watched the guard, the click of the heel and the extreme precision and care with which they carried out what clearly to them was their sacred duty. With DNA analysis, of course, there doesn't have to be an unknown soldier anymore; but this one represents all of them and thus all of us and they honor him and us all as they march.

    Keeping to that precise step, if they were able to, during an Atlantic hurricane would be extremely difficult to impossible--and yet I could just picture them, unflappable, continuing briskly on; it would be moving in more ways than what the mere wind could make happen.

  4. p.s. I guess the answer is blowin' in the wind.