This website is dedicated to the various
men and women
who fought/served in WWI, WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honors the unknown servicemen
who have fallen in the four major U.S. Conflicts of the 20th
Century: World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the
Vietnam Conflict. In 1926, the tomb was placed under a day guard
during the hours which the cemetery was open to visitors, but in
1937, the tomb was placed under a 24-hour military honor guard.
The responsibility of the guarding of the tomb was taken over by
the Third United States Infantry, "The Old Guard" in 1948, and
the practice continues today.
To be a tomb guard takes skill, an impeccable military record,
and most importantly, a strong desire to be part of "The Old
Guard." There is also the physical requirement of being at least
six feet tall. Most prospective guards are recruited from near-
by Fort Myer and must go through an intense interview process
before being considered a possible sentinel. Once accepted,
the trainees go through a two-week period of intense training at
night where they rotate one hour marching with one hour off.
During the hour off, they undergo training to learn the history
of the unknown soldier and Arlington National Cemetery. The
trainees must also polish their brass, their shoes, clean their
rifles, and make sure that everything is perfect. Otherwise
mistakes and failures count against them in their evaluations.
Until recently, trainees who made mistakes had to do 21 push-ups
for the unknown soldier, but now are disciplined in a variety of
other ways. If, after their two-week training period they pass
inspection on their knowledge and skills, they are placed on a
regular rotation schedule for guarding the tomb.
After nine months of being on guard, the sentinels are evaluated
once again. If they pass those tests, they receive the
prestigious Tomb Guard Badge. After twelve months of honorable
service, the Tomb Guards are allowed to wear the Tomb Guard
Badge on their uniform for the rest of their military careers.
Less than 400 sentinels, in the 48 years the Third Infantry has
been guarding the tomb, have received permanent orders for the
Tomb Guard Badge.
The responsibility of the Tomb Guard is to protect the Tomb of
the Unknown Soldier. During daylight hours, sentinels march for
one hour shifts, and at night, two hour shifts. The duty is 24
hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, and 24 hours off. During
that shift they are to stay in the Guard's quarters located
under the Memorial Amphitheater. After each shift, they have
four days off, with two of those days spent in training.
While guarding, the sentinels remain under complete
concentration, marching twenty-one steps, turning to face the
tomb for twenty-one seconds, turning to walk twenty-one steps
back down the 63 foot black mat which is replaced every Memorial
Day. The twenty-one steps and twenty-one seconds are meant to
reflect the highest military tribute, the twenty-one gun salute.
To be a guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the
highlight of one's military career and takes enormous skill,
knowledge, and desire. One of the most important things that a
sentinel must learn is the Sentinel's Creed. The Creed expresses
all the values and desires of the
Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
My dedication to this sacred duty
Is total and wholehearted
In the responsibility bestowed on me
Never will I falter
And with dignity and perseverance My standard will remain
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.
You are listening to: Taps
Day is done, gone the sun,
from the lake, from the hill,
from the sky.
All is well. Safely rest,
God is nigh.
Thanks and praise, for our days,
neath the sun, neath the stars,
neath the sky.
As we go this we know.
God is nigh.
The haunting sound of the lone bugle,
A sound that lets all who hear it that
a soldier has paid the ultimate price,
his/her life in defending freedom
is the final tribute, along with a 21 gun salute,
to a fallen Hero for their Patriotism
In 1862 during the Civil War, Union Army Capt. Robert Ellicombe
was with his men near Harrison's Landing, VA.
The Confederate Army was on the other side of this narrow strip of land.
During the night, Capt. Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay wounded on the field.
Crawling on his stomach through the gun fire, the Captain reach the stricken soldier
and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When he finally reached his own lines he discovered that it was actually a
Confederate soldier, but the soldier had died.
Suddenly the Captain went numb with shock, for in the dim light he saw
the face of the soldier, his own son.
The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out and,
and without telling his father, enlisted in the Confederate Army.
The heartbroken father asked if he could have a group of Army band members
play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral.
That request was turned down because the soldier was a Confederate.
Out of respect for the father, however, they said they would give him one musician.
He chose a bugler, whom he asked to play a series of notes he had found
on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth's uniform.
That music was the haunting bugle melody we now know as
The use of gun salutes for military occasions is traced to early warriors who demonstrated their peaceful intentions by placing their weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective. Apparently this custom was universal, with the specific act varying with time and place, depending on the weapons being used.
The gun salute system of the United States has changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the "national salute" was defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the union...at that time 17. This salute was fired by all of U.S. military installations at 1:00 p.m. (later at noon) on Independence Day. The President also received a salute equal to the number of states whenever he visited a military installation.
In 1842, the Presidential salute was formally established at 21 guns. In 1890, regulations designated the "national salute" as 21 guns and redesignated the traditional Independence Day salute, the "Salute to the Union," equal to the number of states. Fifty guns are also fired on all military installations equipped to do so at the close of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.
Today the national salute of 21 guns is fired in honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-eelct of the United States.
Why 21 Guns?
When correctly executed, the salute is fired in the following order.
One shot is fired, then a volley of 7, another volley of 7, and finally a volley of 6.
And there it is...1776...the date of the signing of the
Declaration of Independence.