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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Updated on May 25, 2015
ArtByLinda profile image

The author is an amateur artist and photographer that loves to travel with her husband of 35 years.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I recently felt honored to be able to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington DC.

It was an indescribable experience to see it. You will often hear people talking about it being "on hallowed ground". This is how you feel when you visit Arlington. You feel like each and every grave there is someone so much greater than yourself, brave men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice or served their Country in such a way that they were honored in burial here. When my father passed away. They offered our family the choice of having him buried there. Having not yet visited this place, this Arlington National Cemetery seemed so very far away from us. We wanted him closer. But when I did have the opportunity to finally visit the place, I was in awe. I wondered if we made the right decision as it would honor our father so greatly to have him there. He was truly a great man.

There are not words that can describe the feeling of this place, the best I can do is to show you in photos.

This is my attempt to bring it to you with my photos taken that special day.

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery - The tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery
The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington Memorial Amphitheater

Is near the center of the Arlington National Cemetery, and is the home of the Tomb of the Unknowns. This site has also hosted the state funerals of many famous Americans, such as General of the Armies John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, General of the Air Force Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, the Unknown Soldiers, and five victims of the September 11 attacks, as well as annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Every American President of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has presided over holiday gatherings at this site.

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery - The soft blues of shadows so pretty.

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery
The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery

This was a photo I took in which I enhanced the colors on, just loved the colors the shadows turned when saturated.

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery - Makes you wonder what they do here.

The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery
The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery

This is The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. I wonder what they do here.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Respect and Ceremony unsurpassed

The Changing of the Guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

You are about to have the extreme honor of witnessing the

Changing of the Guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

You are asked out of respect for these Soldiers

who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country

to not chew gum, smoke or eat

and

You will stand and you will remain silent!

The Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The changing of the Guards of the Unknown soldier
The changing of the Guards of the Unknown soldier

You see the Relief Commander come out, not a hair out of place, his uniform is absolutely perfect.

He walks towards the Soldier guarding the tomb.

The changing of the Guards of the Unknown soldier
The changing of the Guards of the Unknown soldier

He walks towards the Soldier guarding the tomb.

Who lies within the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - "Known but to God"

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Who lies within The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

"Known but to God"

Those words evoke emotions like no others.

Laid to rest in this place of honor lies unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II,The Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The President of the United States, bestows the highest honors upon the Unknown Soldiers, The Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

"The unknown soldiers buried in the Plaza represent the missing and unknown service members for four different wars. Being buried at Arlington gives these families a place to grieve and pray. We stand watch over their graves in humble reverence, ensuring they rest in peace. These Americans have not only given their lives, but their identities for our freedom and way of life."

~quote by Gavin Loyd McIlvenna

And goes right on by.

changing of the guards
changing of the guards

He goes right on by.

They fall into a routine

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They fall into a routine you soon realize has been long practiced. Each step is precise, each movement is done in unison.

Rifle in hand

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Preparing his rifle, perhaps for inspection.

Right on by his Superior Ranking Officer

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They know their routine well.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - designed by Lorimer Rich and sculpted by Thomas H. Jones

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb was designed by Lorimer Rich and sculpted by Thomas H. Jones. They unveiled it on April 9th, 1931. It weighs 79 tons as it is made of solid marble.

Presenting his Rifle

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is Presenting his Rifle for inspection.

He is handed the rifle back once.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Handing it back and presenting it again.

A white glove test is done on the rifle

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

A white glove test is done on the rifle, inspected thoroughly.

Every single detail of the gun is inspected

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Every single detail of the gun is inspected,

I am in awe watching.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I am in Awe as I watch, the entire audience is silent.

More inspection of the gun before the changing of the Guards

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

More inspection of the gun before the changing of the Guards

Bringing in the new Guard at Arlington

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Bringing in the new Guard at Arlington, which should not be confused with the Old Guard.

Soldiers preparing for duty

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One Soldier prepares for Duty to Guard the Tomb. One prepared to go on break, (I imagine their break is probably spent preparing their uniform shoes and rifle for the next time they are honored to guard the tomb of the Unknown). neither of them fails one fraction in their routine that we could see.

The Inverted Wreaths - Represent Mourning and the battles of World War I

The Inverted Wreaths
The Inverted Wreaths

The Inverted Wreaths

When you look on the North and South sides of the Tomb, you will see six inverted wreaths. The wreaths have a certain number of leaves and berries. The wreaths inverted to represent mourning.

They also represent the six major battle campaigns of World War I. They were the battles at:

Ardennes

Belleau Wood

Chateau-Thierry

Meusse-Argonne

Oisiu-Eiseu

Somme

Continuing his paces

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Continuing his paces

Bringing in the New Guard

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Bringing in the New Guard. They walk side by side, never faltering a step of their routine.

The Soldier stops the other moves on.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Soldier stops the other moves on.

He stops and faces the audience

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

He stops and faces the audience

Peace, Victory and Valor

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Peace, Victory and Valor

On the East face of the Tomb you will find three figures, carved into the marble. This is the face most visitors to the Tomb do not see. The three figures, from left to right, represent

Peace, Victory and Valor.

Peace (left side) is holding a dove in her left hand, while holding the right hand of Victory.

Valor (right side) is holding a broken sword in his hands and is facing Victory.

Victory (middle) is holding the hand of Peace and extending an olive branch towards Valor. This is to represent the devotion and sacrifice that went with courage to make the cause of righteousness triumphant.

I wonder what each of this Soldiers medals are for

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I wonder what each of this Soldiers medals are for. How did he earn them, where has he served before this honor?

Both Guards approach each other

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Both Guards approach each other

Perfect Attention

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Perfect Attention to every move.

They start a rifle routine

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They start a rifle routine, movements precise.

They move together

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They move together.

Each movement with purpose

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Each movement with purpose and vigor, you can't hear it in these photos but every time their rifle hits their hand or shoulder you hear the sound, hard movements, precise. Their sound of their perfectly shined shoes hitting the cement resonates loudly.

You sit in silent awe

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

You sit in silent awe as you feel how privileged you are to have the honor of watching the changing of the Guards. You feel their pride in what they do for their fallen Soldiers, for their Country.

They face the Tomb honoring it

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They face the Tomb honoring it.

Rifles begin to move again

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rifles begin to move again.

Watching their feet as they snap

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Watching their feet as they snap.

Rifles swirl precisely

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rifles swirl precisely, always at ready.

Presenting rifles towards the Tomb

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Presenting rifles towards the Tomb.

Rifles ready

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rifles ready.

Rifles high

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rifles held high.

Rifles straight up

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Rifles held straight up again.

They turn

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They turn, Steps in unison.

One Guard steps forward

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They face front again and one guard steps forward onto the blue carpet, ready to begin his Guarding of the Tomb.

The Commanding Officer moves to the other Guard

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Commanding Officer moves to the other Guard.

Turns and Steps off the Blue Carpet - with the Guard going off the guard duty.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Turns and Steps off the Blue Carpet with the Guard going off the guard duty.

They all move in unison - Together.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They all move in unison together.

Walking side by side

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Walking side by side

Until the end of the carpet

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Until the end of the carpet...

Where the New Guard of the Tomb stops

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Soldier beginning his Guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown stops as they move on.

He turns and begins

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

He turns and begins

There are words are chiseled in stone on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"Here rests in honored glory

An American Soldier

Known but to God"

His Guarding the Tomb

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

His Guarding the Tomb

What an honor it must be - Photo #44

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

What an honor it must be to be one of the chosen few to Guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The New Sentinel Takes Over his honor of Guarding the Tomb

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The New Sentinel Takes Over his honor of Guarding the Tomb

Twenty One steps he takes, alluding to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.

He does not execute an about face.

He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds.

Then he turns to face back down the mat,

changes his weapon to the outside shoulder,

counts 21 seconds,

then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat.

He faces the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds.

The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.

The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer and every hour during the winter.

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.

The weapons used by the Tomb Guard are more than just for show. These weapons are fully functional, and are kept ready for use at all times. The weapon inspection conducted prior to the new Sentinel assuming the post, is a real inspection.

There is a poem written by "JR" that is shared on the guards page, it speaks of the guard and their vigil.

The Vigil

In measured steps he makes in rounds.

The click of heels the only sounds.

He stands erect so straight and tall,

With pride and dedication responds to the call.

With deep affection his vigil keeps,

Over those who forever sleep.

He responds not to the visitors stare,

Maintaining his vigil as if in silent prayer.

In the morning's twilight hours,

His watch becomes like cathedral towers.

Reaching from earth to heaven above,

A lasting tribute to one man's love.

As time and seasons come and go,

His vigil remains for all to know.

That beneath the sacred Arlington sod,

Lies three buddies KNOWN BUT TO GOD.

(Dedicated to my cousin, SSG John Gallagher, US Army Special Forces, killed in action January 5, 1968, Republic of Vietnam, and to the men who guard the Tombs of the Unknowns.) J.R.

Unplugged: Guarding The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier - A look behind the scenes of the men that guard the Tomb

They say that; The Elite Group of Soldiers who spend months training for the job, in over 51 years, only 570 earn Tomb badges and only over 500 of those Soldiers earn the honor to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

They work 24 hours shifts.

Each guard presses their own uniforms, they measure their metals place within 1/16 of and inch. For Rookies it can take 12 hours, for those experienced it will still take them around 5 hours.

They shine their shoes to perfection.

Only one in ten trainees actually complete the program.

They usually served around one and a half years before they are done

It is all done to meet the Standard of Perfection, they are fully inspection by another soldier.

They talk about how they reflect on what the men they guard gave up, and how they honor those men.

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

They honor the Tomb.

The Soldier Guarding the Tomb - 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)

Soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown

The Tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, every single day of the year since 1937. On April 6, 1948 the 3d US Infantry (The Old Guard) assumed the sole responsibility of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It is considered the highest honor to be chosen and bestowed the honor of guarding the Tomb. These men are there for one reason only, and this is their creed:

The Sentinel's Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty

is total and whole-hearted.

In the responsibility bestowed on me

never will I falter.

And with dignity and perseverance

my standard will remain perfection.

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.

Simon 1971

This is a really good interview with one of the Guards of the Tomb of the Unknown - What amazing Soldiers and Men they are

In September of 2003 with Hurricane Irene bearing down, he and other Guards still Guarded the Tomb.

It has been my honor to share this with you as it was for me to experience being at Arlington and seeing the dedication of the guards. Feeling in awe of those Men who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice to their County.

May God Bless them and may they Rest in Peace.

Please leave a note.

Thank you!

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    • bigjimj profile image

      bigjimj 7 years ago

      Excellent lens, Linda. Thank you so much for making this lens and sharing it. No amount of honor is ever enough.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I vaguely remember seeing this more than twenty years ago when I visited Arlington with a school group. Your photos bring back details I'd long since forgotten. This is a beautiful lens in more ways than one.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very nice.

    • Davidfstillwagon profile image

      Davidfstillwagon 7 years ago

      I remember visiting Arlington when I was young and this brought back the memories

      thanks 5*

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 7 years ago

      Remarkable photos. Amazing 24/7/365. Beautiful lens.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      beautiful lens. well presented one with great design. very interesting read too. thks for sharing

    • Lisa-Marie-Mary profile image

      Lisa-Marie-Mary 7 years ago

      What a wonderful tribute to those amazing soldiers. My daughter and I were there in May and their dedication and precision brought me to tears.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful tribute lens. Lensrolled to my Remembrance Day lens and SquidAngel Blessings for you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I think this is beautifully done, my mother went to Arlington a few weeks ago to see my cousin in the military and I have never heard of the unknown Soldier until she came back and showed me pics, that's when I went to look it up some more, thank you

    • Bella Stella profile image

      Bella Stella 6 years ago

      I LIKE the idea of this lens! Good job. I have a lens on the ancient Greek cemetery of Keramikos Athens. You can read there more about the way ancient Greeks honored their soldiers.

    • Bradshaw LM profile image

      Bradshaw LM 6 years ago

      A very nice tribute. I'm going to lensroll this on my Canadian Soldiers lens. Thumbs up.

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 5 years ago

      There is an egregious error in your lens... the Old Guard, 3d Infantry wasn't reactivated until 06 APR 1948... so they could not be guarding the Tomb of the Unknown in 1937. At that time it was the 3d CAVALRY - "The Brave Rifles" who were stationed at Fort Myer and were the first sentinels.

    • ArtByLinda profile image
      Author

      Linda Hoxie 5 years ago from Idaho

      @JohnMichael2: Thank you John Michael for helping keep this information accurate. The egregious error (I had to look that word up by the way :) has been corrected. Thank you!

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 5 years ago

      @ArtByLinda: Thank you for correcting it. There is a lot of confusion by the public when it comes to the US military.

      One of the other key facts is that many have walked the mat, but less than 600 have earned the Tomb Guard Badge since 1958 ...

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      I love all of the pictures and I learned so much that I didn't know. I am taking my kids to D.C. this summer and would love to take them to Arlington National Cemetary. Thank you for putting this together. I would like to add it to my Celebrate America lens...please let me know if that is not okay. Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My husband and I were just in D.C. and attended the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were both moved to tears. I have never witnessed anything so moving and touchging. There numerous visiting tours of WW II veterans attending the ceremony. When we looked across and gazed into the faces of those veterans, each in a wheelchair, it made us both so very proud to be an American, and exceptionally proud of the men and women who serve to protect and defend the very rights and freedoms our forefathers fought so desperately to give us. May they each be blessed and may all of their comrades who fought and died in battle, be forever remembered by each of us.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Honestly, what can I say? This truly leaves me speechless.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very humbling to watch The Changing of the Guard. I had the honor of seeing it with my son, an army soldier himself. So many have suffered and died to keep us free. We cannot turn our backs on them. There are veterans organizations we need to support. Do not take our freedom for granted. As so correctly stated, freedom isn't free. Just ask the families of those who lost a loved one in battle.

    • BSieracki profile image

      Bernie 3 years ago from Corbin, KY

      well done.

    • amandascloset0 profile image

      amandascloset0 3 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I hope to visit there myself one day! Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together!

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