Not Even Hurricane Sandy Affects Guard Duty at Tomb of Unknown Soldier
Regardless of the weather, heat, cold, rain, snow or even hurricane, members of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard” have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since April 6th, 1948. Not even Hurricane Sandy changes that, or any hurricane for that matter.
The men of “The Old Guard” consider it an honor to stand watch, even when Arlington National Cemetery is closed like it was all day yesterday. It gets hot, sometimes cold and wet, but they never allow anyone to see how it might be affecting them.
One of the real attractions in Washington is the changing of the guard every 30 minutes and they do it around the clock.
During their watch, guards walk 21 steps across the Tomb of the Unknowns. 21 steps is significant because it relates to the 21-gun salute, the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.
After his 21 steps, the guard pauses 21 seconds before proceeding. 21 seconds for the same reason.
During their march, guards carry their rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb memorial. Before they return, they move their rifle to the other shoulder. To apply for guard duty at the tomb, they must be between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-2 with a waist size no bigger than 30-inches.
Their shoes are made of extra thick soles to protect their feet from the heat and cold. They have metal heel plates that make the loud click as they came to a halt.
Their uniforms can have no wrinkles, folds or lint. They dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.
When they’re not on duty, they must study the history of the famous people laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Guards have to memorize where their graves are located including Presidents Taft and Kennedy, Abner Doubleday, boxer Joe Lewis and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy – the most decorated soldier of World War Two.
Guards cannot swear in public and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way. After completion of their assignment, guards are given a wreath pin they wear on their lapel as evidence they served as a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.