The Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, U.S.A. was first built in 1921 to remember soldiers who died in the First World War but could not be identified. The monument was expanded in 1931 and now commemorates all unknown soldiers. It lies on the top of a hill looking over Washington D.C. It is an important place for many Americans, particularly the military.
The tomb is guarded by soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, called ‘The Old Guard’, dressed in ceremonial uniform. One of the soldiers walks along the black mat in front of the tomb. They Soldier does not display any insignia to show rank. This is out of respect, so that they do not outrank the dead soldiers. The Relief Commander and Assistant Relief Commander do wear insignia, but only when the guard is changed.
The walk down the mat must take exactly 21 steps. Again, this is out of respect, for the 21 gun salute is the highest honor any person can receive. When they reach the end of the mat, they never about-face, so as not to turn their backs on the tomb. Instead, they face the tomb for 21 seconds, and then start walking again. The guard keeps the rifle on the outside arm. This is to show that they are standing between visitors and the tomb, so as to protect it. The guard does this all over and over again, until the Changing of the Guard. Because they carry the rifle for so long, they wear gloves for a better grip.
In summer, from April 1 to September 30, the Guard is changed every 30 minutes. In winter, from Oct 1 to Mar 31, it is changed every hour. When the Tomb is closed to the public, it is still guarded. At these times the Changing of the Guard is every two hours.
The ceremony looks very impressive, and as you will see from this video, that the Guards are very serious about what they do. If visitors try to cross the barriers, or are too noisy, or otherwise disrespectful, the guard will do something about it!