Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery

Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

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Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery

To celebrate Veterans Day, when we honor all those who have served in our military, today’s post focuses on the U.S. Army’s own Honor Guard, who maintain a permanent vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the United States since 1784.

The Old Guard is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in times of national emergency or civil disturbance.

The unit received its unique name from Gen. Winfield Scott during a victory parade at Mexico City in 1847 following its valorous performance in the Mexican War. Fifty campaign streamers attest to the 3rd Infantry’s long history of service, which spans from the Battle of Fallen Timbers through World War II, Vietnam and to today.

Since World War II, The Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president. In that capacity, 3rd Infantry soldiers are responsible for the conduct of military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation’s capital. In addition, soldiers of The Old Guard maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns as well as provide military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Old Guard annually participates in more than 6,000 ceremonies, an average of 16 per day.

Despite this arduous schedule, The Old Guard continuously prepares for its security and infantry missions by conducting year-round training, culminating in a rigorous evaluation of unit tactical proficiency. Because of this, all soldiers are as familiar with traditional infantry or military-police duties as they are with ceremonial duties.

The black-and-tan “buff strap” worn on the left shoulder by each member of the 3rd Infantry (clearly visible in the image above) is a replica of the knapsack strap used by 19th-century predecessors of the unit to display its distinctive colors and distinguish its members from other Army units. The present buff strap continues to signify an Old Guard soldier’s pride in personal appearance and precision performance that has marked the unit for 200 years.

Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

A further distinction of The Old Guard is the time-honored custom of passing in review with fixed bayonets at all parades. This practice, officially sanctioned by the War Department in 1922, dates to the Mexican War in 1847 when the 3rd Infantry led a successful bayonet charge against the enemy at Cerro Gordo. Today, this distinction is still reserved for The Old Guard alone.

The Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by what are known as Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment , headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.

After members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment become ceremonially qualified, they are eligible to volunteer for duty as sentinels at the Tomb. If accepted, they are assigned to Company E of The Old Guard. Each soldier must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall, with a proportionate weight and build. An interview and a two-week trial to determine a volunteer’s capability to train as a tomb guard is required.

During the trial phase, would-be sentinels memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a “walk.” A walk occurs between guard changes. A daytime walk is one-half hour in the summer and one hour in the winter. All night walks are one hour.

The information above was extracted from the official website of Arlington National Cemetery.

Summary
Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery
Article Name
Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery
Description
The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, traditionally known as "The Old Guard," is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the U.S. since 1784. The regiment's mission is to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades including the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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8 Comments

  1. It is amazing the dedication and honor that is paid to our fallen heroes. Nice post Mark.

  2. Very nice post, Mark.
    The hourly changing of the guard is really a sight to see. The “Old Guard” is quite a unit, one whose members must be very proud to be a part of.

    Great shots, Mark.

  3. Great post Mark! I love the history here. What dedication to honour your fallen.

    We have just honoured ours here and it seems to me the public appreciation of our servicemen and women grows each year. Rightly so.

    Nice pictures as well!

  4. Superb Post and shots as well, I love that place, well done

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