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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also referred to as the Tomb of the Unknowns, is located in Arlington, VA at Arlington National Cemetery. The site honors all of the unidentified American servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives during American military engagements. The remains of one individual have been entombed in front of the memorial since World War One. Tomb Guards have patrolled the area every hour of every day since 1937.


  • A Tomb Guard on duty at the Tomb.
  • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  • Former President Harry Truman laying a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established on March 4, 1921 following the burial of an unidentified American soldier in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater. Congress commissioned the construction of a large marble tomb to encapsulate the body on July 3, 1926. Construction of the tomb began in late December 1929 and was not completed until April 1932. Soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War are interred in front of the memorial beneath the plaza. In 1998, the remains of the Vietnam unknown were positively identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie and exhumed on May 14. The marble stone that adorned the Vietnam crypt was replaced with a similar stone that read "Honoring and Keeping Faith with America's Missing Servicemen." Each unknown soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor by the current siting President of the United States at the time of their interment.

To honor the soldier's who were never identified, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is often solemnly decorated in wreaths or ribbons by notable diplomatic figures, most notably the standing President of the United States, who often visits the Tomb on Memorial Day. This tradition began with President William G. Harding, and has since became a staple in the honoring of those who were never identified.
   
If you decide to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you may be surprised to find that it is patrolled by Tomb Guards twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Being a Tomb Guard is one of the highest honors in the military and one of the rarest positions to achieve. The guards will stop any person from being disrespectful while around the tomb. Tomb Guards carry unloaded guns that have changed over the years from M1 Garands to M14s. Guards are on duty for thirty minute shifts during the summer and hour long shifts during the winter. During this time they perform a walk on the plaza mat that requires twenty-one steps in each direction with twenty-one seconds of pause after each completed series. This practice is symbolic of the twenty-one gun salute. This tradition has been held since 1937.

Every guard is eventually relieved in a ceremony. The Relief Commander will appear in the plaza and announce the Changing of the Guard. The new guard will present his or her weapon to the commander to be inspected. While purely symbolic, a thorough white glove inspection of the weapon and the new guard's uniform will be completed with impressive precision. 

Being selected for Tomb Guard is a prestigious honor given to those who are considered the best among the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment located at Fort Myer, Virginia. Any candidate must have an absolutely clean Uniform Code of Military Justice record and be in good physical shape. Every candidate is required to memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery  history verbatim and eventually pass a 100 question test with 95% accuracy.

Soldiers who serve honorably at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier may temporarily wear the Tomb Guard Identification badge. If the soldier serves at the tomb for nine months, they may wear the badge for the rest of their military career. 

Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/tombofun.htm Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore-the-Cemetery/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier Martinez, L. (2012, October 29). Soldiers Guard the Tomb of Unknowns During Hurricane Sandy. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/soldiers-guard-the-tomb-of-unknowns-during-hurricanesandy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_the_Unknowns

The Changing of the Guard. Arlington National Cemetery. . Accessed March 01, 2019. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Changing-of-the-Guard.