Arlington National Cemetery is the second-largest Cemetery in the United States, with over 300,00 people interred there. Among the most visited sites at Arlington National Cemetery is The Tomb of the Unknowns, which is the resting place of three unknown servicemen.
There have been four soldiers interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns, with three remaining there. The first Unknown Soldier was from World War I, the second from World War II and the third from the Korean Conflict.
The fourth Unknown Soldier was from the Vietnam Conflict, but was later identified as First Lt. Michael Blassie of the Air Force. After being identified through DNA testing, his family had his body reinterred near their home.
The Tomb of the Unknowns has been continuously guarded since April 1948. According to the Society of the Honor Guard, “The soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are hand picked and rigorously trained. They have come from every state in the union, every walk of life. There are men and women. For some this is their first unit in the Army, others are veterans of many years. Over the years there have been Regular Army and Draftees.
Each soldier must have strong military bearing, discipline, stamina and present an outstanding soldierly appearance. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honors and ceremonies. They must retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army and their unit.”
The Tomb Guards must learn about over 150 different grave sites, 12 poems and detailed history of Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb and its guards, as well as the US Army and the Regiment. Being selected to stand watch over the graves of the Unknown Soldiers is one of the highest honors a soldier in the United States Army can be granted. Selection is very rigorous, with only 20% of soldiers applying, being selected.
Have you had the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns? We’d love to hear your comments on your visit.