Tomb of the Unknowns ("Unknown Soldier") - U.S.
Remembering all our veterans - and all those who protect and defend throughout the world - on Memorial Day. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
In Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
The Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, although it has never been officially named) is a monument dedicated to American servicemen who have died without their remains being identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States. The "Unknown Soldier" of World War I is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, and several other foreign nations' highest service awards. The U.S. Unknown Soldiers who were interred afterwards are also recipients of the Medal of Honor, presented by the U.S. presidents who presided over their funerals.
It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Less than 20% of all volunteers are accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards. The sentinels do not wear rank insignia on their uniforms so that they do not outrank the Unknowns, whatever their rank may have been.
There is a meticulous ritual the guard follows when watching over the graves:
1. The soldier walks 21 steps across the Tomb. This alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary in America. His weapon is always on the shoulder opposite the Tomb (i.e., on the side of the gallery watching the ritual).
2. On the 21st step, the soldier turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds.
3. The soldier then turns to face the other way across the Tomb and changes his weapon to the outside shoulder.
4. After 21 seconds, the first step is repeated.