Honoring Our Heroes This Memorial Day

As we gather with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend for the “unofficial” start to summer, let’s remember and honor the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And let’s also not forget the families of these men and women.

A few days back, I came across a post on social media about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it got me thinking about honor, commitment, sacrifice, and duty.

After doing a bit of fact-checking (I hope I got them all correct), I thought I’d share

These dedicated men and women embody the spirit of sacrifice and duty of the armed services, and their commitment is truly inspiring.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?

    • The guard takes 21 steps. This alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.

2. How long does the guard pause before turning and beginning the return walk?

    • The guard takes 21 steps. This alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.

3. Why are his gloves wet

    • His gloves are moistened to prevent losing his grip on the rifle.

4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?

    • The rifle is always carried on the shoulder away from the tomb to signify that the sentinel stands between the tomb and any threat. The sentinel switches the rifle with each turn.

5. How often are the guards changed?

    • From 1926 through 1937, the Tomb was guarded only during daylight hours. Since 1937, the Tomb has been continuously guarded 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Guards are changed every thirty minutes between 8 AM and 7 PM from early spring to early autumn (April 1 through September 30) and every hour between 8 AM and 5 PM the rest of the year. At all other times, the guard is changed every two hours.

6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?

    • For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, they must be between 5’10” and 6’2″ tall, have proportionate weight and build, and be in superb physical condition.

Other Facts:

  • The average tour of duty is approximately one year, but there is no required time commitment. Tomb guards may live on-base (Fort Myer) or off-base in their own housing.
  • The Tomb Guard Identification Badge was first awarded in 1957 for “flawlessly performing his duty for several months” and passing a test. Over 600 Tomb Guards have earned the badge since the late 1950s.
  • Although serving as President of the United States qualifies one to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, only two former Presidents are interred there: William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy.

A Story of Unwavering Dedication:

In 2003, as Hurricane Isabel approached Washington, DC, the US Senate and House took two days off in anticipation of the storm. The military members guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend their duty. They respectfully declined, saying, “No way, Sir!” Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they continued their vigil. Guarding the Tomb is not just an assignment; it is the highest honor afforded to a serviceperson. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since July 2, 1937.

Eternal Rest Grant Them, O Lord, and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and safe Memorial Day.

Yours in Success,



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