Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best or Worst Government Job? You tell me.

Most Americans know there is monument in Washington DC located in Arlington National Cemetery.  It was erected solely to pay homage to unknown American 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 help us better appreciate this monument and the men and women who guard it - everyday- I am sharing and interesting story you might find of value.

During 2003, as Hurricane Isabelle approached the east coast and threatened to devastate Washington, members of the US Senate and US House scurried to evacuate the DC area and for the first time in history the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs made a decision to allow the military sentinels assigned to The Tomb of the Unknowns to suspend their duties and evacuate the area as well.

Without hesitation every one of the guards respectfully declined to abandon their posts – they all volunteered to stay and continue to man their posts.

For two days the guards on duty were subjected to hurricane force winds and were pelted relentlessly with rain as they walked their posts ... however, every guard continued to walk his post. Their refusal to suspend their guard duties means The Tomb has been continuously guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since it was inaugurated in 1930.

Now if you enjoyed this short story, you might find this trivia  regarding 
The Tomb of the Unknowns of interest as well.

Individuals selected for Tomb Guard Duty must serve a two - year assignment. Before accepting their post, each sentinel swears an oath they will not drink any alcohol on or off duty while serving their assignment.   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 inches.

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 William Taft
--- President John F Kennedy
--- Audie L. Murphy, Medal of Honor winner and the most decorated soldier of WWII
--- Joe Lewis, former heavy weight boxing champ - Sgt US Army
--- Abner Doubleday, Civil War General and founder of American Baseball
--- Lee Marvin, American actor PFC USMC WWII - Purple Heart recipient. 

Each guard is issued a specially designed pair of shoes that has extra thick soles. The thick soles on their shoes prevent their feet from being affected by the heat or cold. In addition, their shoes have metal heel plates that extend all the way to the top of the shoe to ensure a loud, distinctive click when the guards come to a halt

Every guard is required to 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.

Within the Tomb lies one “Unknown” from World War I who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Three Greek figures adorn the Tomb; one figure represents Peace, another Victory, and the last Valor.

Inscribed on the tomb are these words:


Tomb Guards carry M-14 rifles, all with hand-made rifle stocks. The stocks on these weapons were made by Tomb Guards. Each guard is required to clean his rifle daily and keep it ready for use at all times 

Guards take exactly 21 steps to cross The Tomb – the 21 steps symbolize a twenty-one gun salute.   

{The custom of a 21 gun salute stems from a naval tradition. When a warship encountered a friendly vessel it would fire all its cannons harmlessly out to sea, until all canon ammunition was spent. This act showed the ship was disarmed and signified the lack of any hostile intent. As military customs evolved - 21 shots became the norm.}

After walking across the Tomb, guards execute an “about-face” then pause 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 an “about-face” – the guards ceremoniously move their rifles to the outside shoulder.

Since 1948, Tomb Guards have been assigned to a special platoon within the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment known as The Old Guard. 

During the winter months Tomb guards change shifts every 60 minutes – during the sweltering summer months Tomb guards change their shifts every 30 minutes.
After Arlington National cemetery closes to the public (7 p.m. to 8 a.m. April through September and 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. October through March); the sentinels continue to walk their posts.  That's right - The Tomb is guarded twenty-four hours a day - 365 days a year.

When a guard successfully completes his initial two-year assignment, he or she is awarded a “special lapel pin” – a small distinct wreath – which they can wear on their military uniform for life.

This small unique “wreath” signifies to all that they served as "A Guard of the Tomb".