Important Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Important Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

There are many grave sites that are dedicated to unknown soldiers, but the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a fixture at Arlington National Cemetery. Created in 1921, it serves as the final resting place for American soldiers who gave their lives for their country, but could not be identified. Here are some important facts about this final resting place.

1. It Is Always Guarded.

The symbolism presented in the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is profound. The soldier takes 21 steps to walk across the site, honoring those who are fallen with a 21 gun salute with every pass. The guards work on a three relief team rotation with 24 hours on, 24 hours off, another 24 hours on, and then a 96 hour window of time off.

2. 21 Is Also In The Seconds That Are Paused Between Passes.

Once the sentinel at the tomb reaches the 21st step, there is a pause of 21 seconds to gaze at the tomb itself. Then the 21 steps are repeated once again. This routine continues until the guards are relieved of their duty the next day. It is this process that has helped to keep the tomb guarded every hour of every day since 1937, making it one of the longest consistently guarded places on the planet today.

3. Not Every Unknown American Soldier Is Buried Here.

The first unknown soldier to be buried at the tomb came from the remains of four soldiers that were unknown who had been buried in France. Only one soldier was taken from the four and after lying in state in 1921, the third casket from the left was chosen. The other three soldiers would be permanently buried in France.

4. One Solider Has Actually Been Identified.

The Vietnam War produced one American unknown soldier. Ronald Reagan presided over the internment ceremony in 1984. Using DNA technologies in 1998, the solider was identified as 1st Lt. Michael Blassie. He would wind up being buried in his own identifiable grave, leaving the Vietnam War component of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier vacant.

A wreath is placed on this site during Memorial Day by the sitting President. It is open 365 days per year with varying hours based on the season.