Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: Worth a Visit


Madison Raap

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia.

Madison Raap, Contributor

On November 8th 2017, two wreaths were laid on The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Washington D.C. at Arlington National Cemetery, by students from two schools with four representatives each. My cousin, Sydney Staph, was one of the eight kids who got to lay the wreaths on the tomb. She wrote an essay about what veterans meant to her and she won the chance to do this.

Some of you have no idea what The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is so some background is in order. It is a tomb that is dedicated to all the dead soldiers that have died over the years. There are three men who lie in the tomb, and no one knows who they are, which is why the tomb says,”Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known Only to God.”

The tomb is also guarded 24/7, there is not a moment when a soldier isn’t watching it. You can’t just be anyone in order to guard this tomb though, there are certain requirements you have to meet.

  • You have to be in the 3rd Regiment of the U.S. Army and you must volunteer, no one tells you that you have to do this job.
  • You have to be at least 5’10” for males and 5’8” for females.
  • In training you have to memorize a 17 page packet and write it word for word. If you miss more than 10 things it is most likely you will fail.
  • When you get in you stay in for 2 years no buts, no cuts, and definitely no coconuts.
  • You cannot swear or drink alcohol.
  • You guard the tomb no matter what the weather is. Though in the winter month they change guard every 30 minutes, in the warmer months they change guard every hour, and when the cemetery is closed they change every 2 hours.
  • And for the first 6 months of your duty you can’t talk to anyone or watch tv.

  Also when the guards walk back in forth in front of the tomb they do so very strategically. They march exactly 21 steps south down the mat in front of the tomb, turn east towards the tomb and wait 21 seconds. Then they turn to face north, change weapon to opposite shoulder, before waiting another 21 seconds. After that brief pause they then march 21 steps down to the other side of the mat and repeat the same process on that side. Each turn is also followed by a click of his/her heels.

 The changing of the guard is very symbolic. The relief commander comes out with the next guard and are both required for the changing. While the 1st guard is still marching in front of the tomb, the relief commander is preparing the next guard by checking his uniform and rifle. The 1st guard will say, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The guard taking over his duty will say, “Orders acknowledged,” and take over his duty.

I am so glad that I got to witness this and I am not the who thinks this ceremony was amazing. Cyndie Schepers, one of the many people at this event said, “In America we are free. So many Americans take that for granted! When I walked through Arlington Cemetery I came face to face with the human sacrifice that was paid for my freedom. It is sobering and humbling that I live in such a great country because of these sacrifices of these sons, fathers, mothers, daughters, husbands and families that are represented here at Arlington.”

This reporter felt the honor that is shown at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the weight of history. It was refreshing to witness as this ceremony, with the respect that is truly due to these soldiers who are represented here. To learn about the soldiers who guard the tomb and their commitment to keep it sacred is even more inspiring. To watch the changing of the guard only made me more grateful and respectful of the American soldier.

I am so grateful for the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. Thank you to all our veterans!