There is always an extra amount of intrigue evolving from anything titled “unknown”, but the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. always tops the list.
The Lee County Honor Flight May 30 included viewing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The day’s schedule allowed the veterans to view and/or walk among such memorials as the Air Force, Iwo Jima Marine, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean and the Udar-Hazy Air and Space Center, but the history that surrounds the Arlington Cemetery and the changing of the guard is an emotional event to all that partake.
The Honor Flight participants were treated to a special presentation of details and question answering by one of the guards following the ceremonial changing that is an on-going attraction at the cemetery.
The guard, addressing the group in civilian clothes, detailed some of often questioned elements of the position such as;
Q) How often is the guard changed?
A) The Guard is changed every 30 minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sept. 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
.Q) What is the marching routine that each guard adheres to?
A) The tomb guards march 21 steps down the black mat behind the tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.
Other interesting facts learned by the veterans included that all guards are volunteers from the 3rd Regiment ( Old Guard) and they must commit 2 years of their life to guarding the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives.
Every guard works a routine of 26 hours on duty followed by 22 hours off-duty.
The tomb is intended to honor the many military men and women that have sacrificed their lives and their remains have not be officially identified.
Arlington cemetery includes the graves of 4,725 unknown heroes who lost their lives while defending their country. The attention that was extended to the guard while presenting to the group of veterans was uninterrupted as the respect was given him that had been extended all day to the veterans visiting the Capital City.