Many of us spend a moment to reflect on the meaning of this day. But for some Americans, it simply means an extra day off from work and a traditional barbecue with friends and family. But there is one place in America where Memorial Day is honored everyday.
The soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown, or sentinels as they refer to themselves, march slowly, solemnly by the marble crypt overlooking Arlington cemetery, standing watch over their brothers buried beneath it.
Twenty-one paces before they make a crisp about-face and return, rifles to their shoulder and eyes focused straight ahead. They keep their lonely watches in rain or snow, all day and all night long, since 1926. They memorialize those who have given their lives in the service of our country without any other recognition, not even a name on their gravestone.
The marble sarcophagus at the Tomb of the Unknown has this inscribed message:
“HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY, AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD”
To qualify to become a Tomb Guard is also an honored privilege for which only a very few have the dedication and commitment. The Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has this explanation for their service:
“Serving as a Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a defining period in our lives. For each of us, it was a motivating factor that has been a measuring stick of our lives. We were profoundly affected by this unique experience; it made us better people and more productive citizens. While rendering honors, we were honored. Although we come from all walks of life, we all share the common bond of having had a humbling experience and a high privilege. We are proud of our Tomb Guard duty.
The Society of The Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a non-profit association organized expressly for and wholly committed to protecting and enhancing the welfare and image of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the soldiers who stand guard, past and present.
The Society works toward preserving and maintaining records, educating the public concerning the history of the Tomb and the Unknown Soldiers, as well as the history of the Guards who have stood watch over them since 1926.”
This Memorial Day, take a moment and reflect on the significance of the day. It is referred to as a holiday, or holy day from its root meaning. A special day of observance that holds great enough import, that our government has set it aside in special recognition of certain unforgettable events. The recognition of our fallen in battle defending our country, our citizens and that one special concept we all hold so dear above all else: freedom.
A commemorative video from the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
A short video showing one of the guards challenging visitors who do not show the proper respect of silence in the presence of the tomb: