The original guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were civilians.
On March 24, 1926, the precursor of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, the Washington Provisional Brigade, set up a daytime military guard. After being reactivated in 1948 in Washington, DC, the 3rd U.S. Infantry, sometimes known as “The Old Guard,” took up the position. The Honor Guard of the 3rd Infantry Regiment is still actively doing its sacred mission.
To be considered for the honor of standing sentry at the Tomb, a soldier must be an American citizen with a perfect military record and an unblemished character.
While on duty, the sentinel takes 21 steps to traverse the 63-foot rubber-surfaced walkway. After staring at the Tomb for 21 seconds, he turns around and waits for another 21 before turning around and walking back the way he came. The symbolism of the number 21 is the highest military and state salute given to dignitaries.
The guard keeps his firearm pointed away from the Tomb as a deterrent to intruders.
On Saturday, severe weather in Washington, D.C., did not deter the United States soldier assigned to protect the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) stayed on duty during 60-85 mph winds and heavy rain. According to the ANC’s website, the tomb is the “final resting place” of an unknown World War I soldier and “Unknowns from later wars,” which were added to the monument in 1958 and 1984.
ANC tweeted, “We couldn’t be prouder” of the U.S. Army Old Guard men assigned to guard the tomb.
According to ANC, the sentinel “leans into it and continues marching” despite gusts of “60-85 mph” in the DC area.
ANC had planned to open on Sunday but canceled its plans so that employees could “finish the necessary work and repairs” caused by the recent storm.