A few days ago a friend of mine back in the states sent me an email that he was forwarding to several friends as he was inspired by it and felt the need to share it. I don’t usually appreciate such emails as they remind me of chain letters but this one was different. I did not know much about the duty to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns until I got this email. It is quite an amazing story. The dedication these people must show to this duty is so far beyond most of our abilities. We go about our daily lives worrying about very small things without understanding the kind of dedication that some people have made and are making to assure our security. This is truly an inspirational story and deserves to be read.
“Jeopardy”, long-running popular TV game show in the US recently include the following question as the final question of the game:
Q: How many steps does the guard take on his walk across the Tomb of the Unknowns?
All three participants missed the question. The correct answer was “21” which alludes to the “21 gun salute” which is highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.
What is more interesting about this story is the level of service that these guards are required to perform just to be able to wear a wreath pin on their lapels. This badge can be revoked if they break any of the rules which they are required to follow for the rest of their lives. They must commit two years of the lives to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink 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 (fighting) or the tomb in any way.
In the first six months a guard is not allowed to talk to anyone, nor watch TV. 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 Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and medal of honor winner Audie Murphy (of Hollywood fame and the most decorated soldier of WWI).
Every guard spends an average of six hours a day getting his woolen uniforms ready for duty. Wool is worn regardless of the season. They must be perfectly pressed, clean and free from all lint. He must be between 178 and 188 cm tall and have a waist not exceeding 76 cm.
The tomb has been guarded 24 hours a day 7 days a week since July 2, 1937. To date only 400 soldiers have earned this honor. Even in the event of inclement weather such a hurricane (Isabelle in 2003), the guards refused to suspend their duty and continued to guard the tomb soaked to the skin in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, saying that guarding the Tomb or Unknowns was the highest honor that any service man can be given.
I guess that I would not want to be the first one among hundreds who have guarded the tomb to break my duty either but the service these young men and women have given to their country is truly inspirational.
For more information on the Tomb of the Unknowns, see the following link.
Reading about that kind of dedication, made me feel more inspired and dedicated to running my school and coaching my students so that they can understand the gravity of such matters and really appreciate and benefit from the hard work and effort that they make to hone their English skills.
So back to work!