Veterans Day is a holiday observed in the United States on November 11 each year to honor all those who have served in the military. On this day, we take time to honor all people who have served honorably in the military, both living and deceased veterans, in wartime and peacetime.
All throughout history, millions of soldiers have died in battle in countless wars. Whenever possible, their remains are identified and sent home, so that their families can give them a proper burial.
Sometimes, though, fallen soldiers remain unidentified. After World War I, a movement began to honor unidentified soldiers with a single tomb that would contain the body of a single unknown soldier.
That one soldier would then serve as a symbol of the sacrifice of all the unknown soldiers who died in battle. Today, there are many such memorials around the world.
Many of them have become frequently visited national monuments. In the United States, the Tomb of the Unknowns (often called the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”) is located in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Tomb of the Unknowns has become a popular monument dedicated to American service members who have died unidentified. The Tomb of the Unknowns contains the remains of unidentified soldiers from several wars.
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY
KNOWN BUT TO GOD
On its northern and southern sides are six wreaths that represent the six major battles of World War I.
The Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded continuously — 24 hours per day, 7 days per week — since July 2, 1937. Even bad weather doesn’t interrupt the watch.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded by the Tomb Guards, a special platoon within the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (also called “The Old Guard”). It is an extremely high honor to serve as a Tomb Guard.
Fewer than 20 percent of volunteers are accepted for training, and of those only a few pass the training to become a Tomb Guard.
When watching over the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Tomb Guards follow a detailed ritual:
- A soldier walks 21 steps across in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns. The soldier holds his weapon on the shoulder opposite the Tomb.
- On the 21st step, the soldier turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds.
- The soldier turns in the opposite direction and changes his weapon to his outside shoulder.
- After waiting another 21 seconds, the soldier walks another 21 steps back across in front of the Tomb, and the process repeats until the changing of the guard.
The number 21 is significant, because it represents the three volleys — the highest honor given to any military personnel in America — which consists of seven riflemen each firing three shots for a total of 21.