Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Guard At The Tomb

Most of us know there is monument in Washington DC erected solely to pay homage to unknown soldiers who lost their lives in military battles.  Most of us refer to this monument as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or Soldiers; however, its official name, as designated by Congress, is the Tomb of the Unknowns.

To fully appreciate this monument and those who guard it, here is a story you might enjoy.

As Hurricane Isabelle approached the east coast back in 2003 and threatened Washington DC, members of the US Senate and the House scurried to evacuate the area.  For the first time in history the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave the military sentinels guarding The Tomb permission to suspend their duties and evacuate the city.

Every guard respectfully declined; they all volunteered to man their posts.  For two days, the guards were subjected to hurricane force winds and relentless pelting rain; however, the guards never left their posts.  Their refusal to suspend their duties means The Tomb has been continuously guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since it was inaugurated in 1930. 

If you enjoyed this short story on The Tomb, I am sure you will find the following Tomb trivia of interest.

* Military personnel who apply to be a Tomb Guard must be between 5'10" and 6'2" tall and have a waist size that does not exceed 30".

* Individuals selected for Tomb Guard Duty must agree to serve a two-year assignment.  However, before accepting their post, each sentinel must swear never to drink any alcohol on or off duty during their two-year tour of duty.

* Newly assigned guards are required to study and memorize the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  Among the notables interned at Arlington are President Taft, Medal of Honor winner Audie L. Murphy (the most decorated soldier of WWII), and Joe Lewis, the great American boxer.

* Tomb guards are issued unique shoes that have special extra thick soles.  The thick soles prevent their feet from being affected by the heat and cold.  In addition, both shoes have metal heel plates that extend all the way to the top of the shoe to ensure a loud, distinctive click is made when the guards come to a halt. 

* Tomb guards must wear gloves while on duty.  Guards wet their gloves before reporting for duty to prevent their hands from losing their grip on the rifle they carry.

* Each guard takes exactly 21 steps to cross The Tomb – the 21 steps symbolize a twenty-one gun salute.

* After walking across The Tomb guards execute an "about- face", then pause for 21 seconds before they begin their return walk back across The Tomb.

* Guards always carry their rifles on the shoulder facing away from The Tomb.  After they walk across The Tomb and execute their "about-face", they ceremoniously transfer their rifle to the outside shoulder. 

* During the summer, guards change shifts every 30 minutes; during winter, every hour.

* The Tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


* When a guard successfully completes his/her two-year assignment, he/she is awarded a lapel pin.  Guards are allowed to wear this pin on their uniform.  The pin is a small wreath.  The wreath signifies to all that they were ...

                  A Guard Of The Tomb