Public Can Soon Lay Flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery has announced civilians will be allowed to walk up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and lay flowers on the grave. The two-day event will occur on November 9 and 10, 2021, prior to Veterans Day.

Close up of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Public Flower Ceremony will be the first time in nearly 100 years that the public will be allowed to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza. While free, it does require prior registration.

“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning.

“As a sacred memorial site and the grave of three unknown American service members, the Tomb connects visitors with the legacy of the U.S. armed forces throughout the nation’s history,” she continued.

Three sentinels standing before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
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The ceremony will begin at 8:00 A.M. on November 9, with representatives of the Crow Nation placing flowers on the Tomb and reciting the prayer given 100 years ago by American-Indian Chief Plenty Coups. Throughout the day, interpretive talks will be given from the Memorial Amphitheater west steps, and educational signage will be placed along Memorial Avenue and the amphitheater.

The ceremony will end at 4:00 P.M. on November 10 with the original benediction recited by the Army Chief of Chaplains, Major General Thomas L. Solhjem.

Sentinel kneeling before miniature American flags
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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was erected in 1921 to pay tribute to unidentified service members who have died in conflict. It is located at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, and while guarded since 1926, wasn’t continuously watched over by the military until 1937.

It was created from a marble slab with the remains of a single unidentified soldier who died during World War I, and after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill has become home to Unknowns from World War II and the Korean War. They were interred in 1958.

The Tomb was also home to an Unknown from the Vietnam War, whose remains were later identified as Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie. It was decided that, in his place, the crypt would remain vacant. Its cover was replaced with a new inscription, which reads: “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958–1975.”

Sentinel guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
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While visitors are encouraged to bring their own flowers, complimentary gerbera daisies, sunflowers and roses will be provided.