Not all heroes have names - The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (VIDEO)

Arlington, VA—The Arlington National Cemetery is home to 624 acres of land dedicated to fallen service members. Those buried at this cemetery span across several wars, dating back to the Civil War (including some from even earlier wars), to those who have lost their lives to the War on Terror. There are 70 sections in the Arlington Cemetery, including areas dedicated to slaves who lost their lives fighting in wars, nurses, and military chaplains. Besides gravesites, there are several memorials in the cemetery as well. One memorial in particular is dedicated to unidentified servicemen who have lost their lives in war, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also known as The Tomb of the Unknowns, was erected after World War I to honor soldiers who have paid the greatest sacrifice, whose remains are unfortunately unidentified. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved a memorial dedicated to unknown fallen soldiers. On Veterans Day of that same year, the remains of an unknown soldier who died in WWI were the first to be buried on the memorial site. Since then, three others’ remains have been added to separate tombs at the memorial, one from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The remains of the Vietnam War’s unknown soldier were later identified in 1998, and the soldier was given a proper burial in St. Louis. That tomb remains unused, but as do the occupied tombs, it represents unidentified soldiers who have given it all. Etched on the back of the Tomb are these words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

This memorial has been on constant watch since 1937, including after hours and during inclement weather. For 80 straight years, the memorial has been guarded without even a minute of vacancy. The tomb guards are members of the Old Guard, the oldest infantry unit active in the military. To become part of the Old Guard is an extremely strenuous task, overcoming intense training, weapons, orders, uniform preparation testing, and much more. If one is selected to be a Tomb Guard, it is said that they are held to the highest standard of uniform preparation than any other member of the military, taking around eight hours to prepare their uniform for each guard shift.

Being a Tomb Guard is more than just a job, it’s an oath and a lifestyle. The Tomb Guard badge is the least often awarded in the entire Army, and those who receive this badge are held to a high standard of behavior not only during their time as a guard, but for the rest of their lives. The badge can be taken away at any point during their lifetime if they commit an action that is deemed disrespectful to the Tomb. The average tour length for being a Tomb Guard is 18 months. During those 18 months, guards work in 24 hour shifts, rotating every 30 minutes to two hours depending on the time of year. When they aren’t guarding, they are staying in the living quarters beneath the mat. On their time off, they prep their uniform, complete physical and Tomb Guard training, and get fresh haircuts before each shift.

While on guard duty, the Tomb Guards take 21 steps, face the Tomb for 21 seconds, turn away from the Tomb, switch shoulders their rifle sits on, then wait another 21 counts before beginning the process over again. The guards do this for the entirety of their shift, alluding to the 21-gun salute.

This Veteran’s Day, acknowledge the indescribable bravery, resolve, and determination one must uphold to serve this country. Remember your family members, friends, neighbors, and idols who have served, but also know that some who sacrificed it all are unnamed. Not everyone gets a proper burial, but the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier speaks for them all. Not all heroes wear capes, and not all heroes have names.

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