In the Arlington National Cemetery there is a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. On one side is a tomb for unknown soldiers who died in World War II and on the other side a tomb dedicated to US service men who died in the Korean War. The WWI tomb was first established in 1921 but without the monument above it. In 1932 the large, multi-level marble monument was added.
This is guarded by soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment. Soldiers volunteer for this post and have to undergo ridged training including learning 7 pages of Arlington Cemetery history verbatim and learning the location of 300 significant graves in the cemetery (What?). The post is so highly regarded that only 20% of those who apply for the post are accepted. In fact it is the second least awarded “badge” after the Astronauts Badge. (What?). Soldiers on guard duty do not wear their insignia so as not to outrank the unknown soldier, whatever his rank may be. However non-commissioned officers wear unmarked uniforms while guarding and then quickly slip into insignia-bearing uniforms for the changing ceremony. (Say what?). The guards stand and walk on a mat in front of the tomb and so it is called “Walking the Mat.” (The mat is changed twice a year by the way). The Changing ceremony involves walking pausing, turning, counting to 21 and repeating. (Yes they need to know 7 pages of cemetery history for that). The soldiers are armed with M14 rifles (is there an eminent invasion of Arlington I don’t know about). The guns are real, well maintained, ready to use at any moment – but not loaded. The guards are allowed to reprimand tourists who overstep the barriers or are disrespectful by talking too loudly.
Where: Arlington Cemetery,
1 October – 31 March – On the hour every hour 8am-5pm
1 April – 30 September – Every half hour on the half hour 5pm-7pm
Web: Arlington Cemetery