Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Guest Author - Gary King
"...My standard will remain perfection!..."
History of the Tomb
Why do we guard the grave of an Unknown Soldier?
War has always taken our best and brightest when they are too young, with their entire life ahead of them. Families of fallen servicemen need to have closure....so they can move past their grief and loss. With the lethality of modern weapons, identifying the bodies or our warriors has been difficult in the past, and many times we cannot provide the families with positive identification. Their pain continues as they wonder about their loved one.
The unknown soldiers burried in the Plaza represent the missing and unknown service members for four different wars. Being buried at Arlington gives these families a place to grieve and pray. We stand watch over their graves in humble reverence, ensuring they rest in peace. These Americans have not only given their lives, but their identities for our freedom and way of life.
I am proud to have been able to stand watch over their graves, and I feel a closer bond with the veterans of these wars. Knowing that their sacrifice will not be forgotten as they are guarded by the young men and women of our nation, makes me very proud to be an American.
This has been the most difficult part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier web site. How does one briefly summarize a war? World War II and the Vietnam War were the most difficult to write, as they had such a huge impact on our nation in many ways. I know that I have missed many different battles and dates, but I hope you will take the time to learn more about these events, and their impact on our nation. General George S. Patton, Jr. said it best:
"The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one's country."
Every American who has worn the uniform of our country has my deepest respect and admiration.
- GAVIN MCILVENNA
Click the related link to go to their site at www.tombguard.org and check it all out, from where the idea to honor the unknown dead originated, to frequently asked questions, who the Tomb Guards are, the weapons they carry, and much more.
The Sentinel's Creed are the 99 words they live by. The words bring vast emotions to the surface when spoken by a Sentinel. They tend to stand a little taller, with their backs a little straighter and their heads just a little higher. These words capture the true meaning of why they are Tomb Guards. Whenver a Tomb Guard salutes a commissioned officer, they always say in a loud voice:
"Line Six, Sir!"
The Sentinel's Creed
My dedication to this sacred duty
is total and whole-hearted.
In the responsibility bestowed on me
never will I falter.
And with dignity and perseverance
my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
and the discomfort of the elements,
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect,
his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
this soldier will in honored glory rest
under my eternal vigilance.
Today's Tomb Guard must be able to retain vast amounts of knowledge over many different subjects. With over 150 different grave sites, 12 poems and numerous questions on the history of Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb and its guards, as well as the US Army and the Regiment, the Knowledge Corner is a small place in the Tomb Guard quarters where trainees demonstrate what they have learned.
In addition to the 3 General Orders that each soldier in the Army has to memorize, there are also 3 Special Orders. Go to their site and click on the photo and you will see a set of Special Orders from the 1950's that contained 4 orders.
There you will find just a small fraction of what they have to remember.
In measured steps he makes in rounds.
The click of heals the only sounds.
He stands erect so strait and tall,
With pride and dedication responds to the call.
With deep affection his vigil keeps,
Over those who forever sleep.
He responds not to the visitors stare,
Maintaining his vigil as if in silent prayer.
In the mornings twilight hours,
His watch becomes like cathedral towers.
Reaching from earth to heaven above,
A lasting tribute to one mans love.
As time and seasons come and go,
His vigil remains for all to know.
That beneath the sacred Arlington sod,
Lies three buddies KNOWN BUT TO GOD.
(Dedicated to my cousin, SSG John Gallagher, US Army Special Forces, killed in action January 5, 1968, Republic of Vietnam, and to the men who guard the Tombs of the Unknowns.) - J.R.
How Do I Become a Tomb Guard?
Being selected to stand watch over the graves of the Unknown Soldiers is one of teh highest honors a soldier in the United States Army can be granted. Selection is very rigorous.
First and foremost, you must be an enlisted member of the United States Army, between the ranks of Private (E-1) through Sergeant First Class (E-7). The Tomb Guards are selected from only one unit in the Army, the 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) which is stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia.
However, getting to the Old Guard is tough, as y ou must pass the standards set for the entire Regiment. Once in the Old Guard you must serve for at least 6 months, before submitting your name to the Tomb.
Just SOME of the requirements that each candidate must have:
* No military or civilian convictions of law
* Score a minimum of 250 on the Army Physical Fitness Test
* Be within 5'11" - 6'4"
* Have a 30 inch waist
* Presend a soldierly appearance in the Army Blue Uniform.
Who Are The Tomb Guards?
The soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are hand picked and rigorously trained. They have come from every state in the union, every walk of life. There are men and women. For some this is their first unit in the Army, others are veterans of many years. Over the years there have been Regular Army and Draftees.
The duty is not for everyone. Over 80% of the soldiers who tryout for this duty do not make it.
Each soldier must have strong military bearing, discipline, stamina and present an outstanding soldierly appearance. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honors and ceremonies. They must retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army and their unit.
On March 25, 1926 orders were sent down directing the formation of an armed military guard at the Tomb, during daylight hours only. Too many visitors to the cemetery were using the original crypt as a picnic table.
On July 2, 1937, the guard was increased in size, and ordered to begin 24 hour shifts. Both of these documents are the foundation of the Guards existing orders and mission.
The mission of the Guard of Honor, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is as follows:
* Responsible for maintaining the highest standards and traditions of the United States Army and this Nation while keeping a constant vigil at this national shrine.
* Prevent any desecration or disrespect directed toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
There is much more about the life of a Sentinel after he or she leaves that post. They actually consider that they are still Sentinels, but Sentinels who do not walk. They have do conduct themselves according to strict standards or lose the pin they get.
We many times take things for granted and most of us may not think much about the dedication of people who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but they deserve a medal, all of them, and they deserve our respect and admiration. We hear a lot about the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Canadian Snowbirds, British Red Arrows and other air demonstration teams, but we do not always hear or read a lot of information about the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
They are dedicated, they are outstanding military personnel and they are worthy of our attention and our respect. Let us all take time to pause and thank God for these dedicated professionals who watch over those who died and represent all those who serve our nation with honor.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier