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calendar   Saturday - May 28, 2005

IN OBSERVANCE OF MEMORIAL DAY

THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

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

21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one-gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

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2.  How long does the Sentinel hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?

He does not execute an about face. He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds. Then he turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder, counts 21 seconds, then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat. He faces the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.

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3. Why are his gloves wet?

His gloves are moistened to improve his grip on the rifle.

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4.  How often are the Guards changed?

The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sep 30) and every hour during the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). During the hours the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every 2 hours. The Tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every day since 1937.

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5. How does the Guard rotation work? Is it an 8 hour shift?

Currently, the Tomb Guards work on a three Relief (team) rotation - 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 96 hours off.  However, over the years it has been different. The time off isn’t exactly free time. It takes the average Sentinel 8 hours to prep his/her uniform for the next work day.  Additionally, they have Physical Training, Tomb Guard training, and haircuts to complete before the next work day.

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6.  Is it true they must commit 2 years of life to guard the Tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives?

No, this is a false rumor. The average tour at the Tomb is about a year. There is NO set time for service there. The Sentinels live either in a barracks on Ft. Myer (the Army post located adjacent to the cemetery) or off base if they like. They do have living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater where they stay during their 24 hour shifts, but when they are off, they are off. And if they are of legal age, they may drink anything they like, except while on duty.

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7. Has anyone ever tried to get past the Tomb guards, or attempted to deface the Tomb?

Yes, that is the reason why we now guard the Tomb.  In the early 1920’s, there were no guards.  People often came to the cemetery in those days for picnics during which time some would actually use the Tomb as a picnic area (probably because of the view).  Soon after (1925) civilian guards were posted.  In 1926, a military guard was posted during cemetery hours; and on July 1, 1937, this was expanded to the 24-hour watch. Since then, the ceremony has developed throughout the years to what we have today.

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ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO THEM O LORD, AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

We can be very proud of our young men and women in the service, no matter where or how they serve.

God bless and keep them.

Abstracts from FAQ of Society of Honor Guards, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For more information, visit this website:  http://www.tombguard.org


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Posted by Tannenberg   United States  on 05/28/2005 at 10:40 AM   
Filed Under: • Patriotism •  
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