Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Arlington National Cemetery & Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

Last June, Mom, Dad and I went to Arlington National Cemetery on our way to pick up Abby from Dulles when she got back from Spain.  Okay, I thought our cemeteries here were big, but, oh no, they're really not.  Arlington National Cemetery is HUGE.  It literally feels like you could look forever and not see anything by tombstones for as far as your eye can see.  It's a pretty neat experience.

One of my favorite parts about the cemetery were the neat "street" signs you walked past.  The names of the street signs included, Grant Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, McClellan Avenue, and one directing you towards the President J.F. Kennedy Gravesite.

What we really wanted to see was the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. There are two words that I can use to describe seeing this: so. cool.  It really is.  If you're ever in the area and you have time, please go see this!

A couple of days ago, Dad sent me an email with facts about the guards at the Tomb and while reading them, I couldn't believe how cool all of the facts were. (See, "cool" is obviously the only word I can use to describe it! ha.)  The email started with a Jeopardy question that none of the contestants could answer:

"How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns?"

The correct answer is 21.  Why? It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

Now, I hope you'll enjoy these other facts.

How long does the guard hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why?
21 seconds, for the same reason as the previous question.

Why are the guard's gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.

Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and, if not, why not?
He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb.  After his march across the path, he executes an about fact and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.

How often are the guards changed?
Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

What are the physical traits of the guard limited to?
For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5'10 and 6'2 tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30.

The rest of these facts are almost hard to believe.  Talk about some serious dedication!!

Guards 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.  They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way.

After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb.  There are only 400 presently worn.  The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

The shoes are specifically made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet.  There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.

There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform.  Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.

The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone nor watch TV.  All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred.  

Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.

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from Mallory on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Nina Diane said...

some of those facts are crazy. I had heard a few before but the no watching tv and stuff for 2 years, wow.