03 January 2010

Every Day Heroes:Guards for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier


A Special Time for Unknown Tomb Guards

A Special Time for Unknown Tomb Guards

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. - Since July 2, 1937, the Unknown Soldiers interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery have never been alone.

Sentinels who guard the Tomb constantly keep the Unknowns company through wind, rain, snow and heat. They maintain their vigil day and night; on weekends and holidays, the sentinels are there at the Tomb to guard the Unknown Soldiers and to ensure they will forever rest with dignity and honor.

The sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are a platoon of Soldiers from Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). They go through a rigorous training cycle to earn the right to call themselves sentinels at the Tomb.

Although Soldiers who pass training are able to wear the prestigious Tomb Guard badge, the sentinels who earn the badge do not do what they do for the prestige of being one of only 576 Soldiers to ever wear the badge; they do it because they are committed to giving back to these unknown Soldiers who gave everything they had - their lives, their identities - in sacrifice to their country.

No matter what the holiday, the dedication of these Soldiers will not waver. Before dawn on Christmas Eve, Sgt. Jonathan R. Pierce, the assistant commander of the relief for second relief, and seven other Soldiers, will report for duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will guard the unknowns throughout the day and night, pacing silently for 21 steps in front of the Tomb to show visitors these Unknowns deserve the utmost respect and honor.

Pierce and his Soldiers will guard the Tomb until early Christmas morning. Only after the next relief of Soldiers arrives to take responsibility will they be able to go home.

Pierce has been assigned to the Tomb of the Unknowns for a year and a half. This will not be the first holiday he has not been with his family because he was guarding the Tomb. In the past 12 months alone, Pierce has been on duty on Veteran's Day, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving Day. This will be the second Christmas Eve he has spent with the Unknowns. Guarding the Tomb on holidays is a little different than it is during the rest of the year, said Pierce....

There is more here.

I also found a great site about these Every Day Heroes. Society of the Honor Guard has so much information, take the time to go read about these usually unsung heroes. In the history section - here - it tells where the idea originated:

The idea of honoring the unknown dead originated in Europe after World War I. The first country to honor its unknown warriors from that war was Great Britain. While on the Western Front, Reverend David Railton thought of arranging for the body of one, unknown serviceman to be transported back to England, and buried with full honors. Mr. Railton tried to express why (he) felt this was so important. In a letter he recalled an incident near Armentieres, where he came across a grave with a rough wooden cross inscribed "An unknown British soldier, of the Black Watch":
"How that grave caused me to think! But, who was he, and who were they [his folk]? Was he just a laddie? There was no answer to those questions, nor has there ever been yet. So I thought and thought and wrestled in thought. What can I do to ease the pain of father, mother, brother, sister, sweetheart, wife and friend? Quietly and gradually there came out of the mist of thought this answer clear and strong, "Let this body - this symbol of him - be carried reverently over the sea to his native land. And I was happy for about five or ten minutes."

Go read more here.

Thank you ALL for your service.

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