I received the information that follows in an email circulated to large numbers of people and so, cannot accurately identify and credit its source. Its details and sentiments, however, merit inclusion in the materials on this Site. The contents of the correspondence are as follows:
On “Jeopardy” one night, the final question was: “How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns?” All three contestants missed the answer. It is an awesome sight to watch if you’ve never had the chance. So, just in case you’re ever on “Jeopardy,” you’ll be prepared after you read this.
- How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns and why?
21 steps. It alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor accorded any military or foreign dignitary.
- How long does he hesitate after his about-face to begin his return walk and why?
21 seconds for the same reason as that in answer #1.
- Why are his gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing grip of his rifle.
- Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time and if not, why not?
He carries his rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about-face and moves the rifle to his outside shoulder.
- How often are the guards changed?
Guards are changed every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- What are the physical characteristics of the guards?
For a soldier to apply for guard duty at the Tomb, he must be between 5’10″ and 6’2″ tall, and his waist size cannot exceed 30″”.
Other requirements of the guards:
They must commit 2 yeas of their lives to guarding the Tomb, live in barracks under the Tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol, on or off-duty, for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the Tomb in any way. After 2 years, a guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on his lapel signifying he served as a guard of the Tomb. There are only 400 such wreath pins presently worn. Each guard must obey these rules for the rest of his life or, must give up the wreath pin.
Their shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep heat and cold from their feet. The shoes have metal heels extending to their tops in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.
Their are no wrinkles, fold, or lint on their uniforms. All guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.
During the first six months of duty, a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch television.
All off-duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President William Howard Taft, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Joe Lewis (the boxer), and Audie Murphy (Medal of Honor Winner and the most decorated soldier of World War II).
Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.
In 2003, as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching Washington, DC, our U.S. Senate and House of Representatives took 2 days off in anticipation of the storm. On the ABC Evening News, it was reported that, because of the dangers from the hurricane, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer. Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afford to a serviceperson.
The Tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930.