Tomb of the unknown soldier
January 02, 2016
Seeing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, an hourly ritual (in the winter) has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I have no excuse for not making it over. Now that I've been, I can say this with confidence: visiting Arlington National Cemetery should be a requirement for every American. It’s an incredibly humbling, and eye-opening experience.
We—me, Husband, and my cousin, A’lana, who was in town —headed over on a chilly Saturday afternoon. The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is a 15-minute walk up a moderate hill from the Main Entrance. We bypassed a lot of tombstones (each one was marked with a Christmas wreath) on the walk over. On 62 acres of land, there around 400,000 graves. The tombstones stretch on as far as the eye can see. The freedoms we often take for granted as Americans aren’t really free. They comes at a very high cost.
We made it up the hill with just a few minutes to spare before the ceremony began. Feminist me was happy to see a woman guarding the tomb. Promptly at 2PM, another guard came out to announce The Changing of the Guard ceremony would begin. He asked the gathered crowd to stand before the guards began.
The whole ceremony lasts about 10 minutes. The discipline, synchronization of the guards and the attention to detail are fascinating. It’s also emotionally stirring, which I was warned of, but didn’t think applied to me as I’m not usually very emotional. But like, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in rain, hail, sleet, snow, a guard is there to, well, guard the tomb of a person “known but only to God”. It struck me as a powerful way to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice, even if it’s a small “thank you” in the big picture. It’s also—and this might be weird—comforting. Whomever this person is that is buried there, however he died, he is never alone and his contribution never forgotten.
I took video, but I found a MUCH better version (with a complete unobstructed view), courtesy of PBS. Enjoy!
After the ceremony, we meandered through the Memorial Amphitheater, then headed over to President John F. Kennedy's gravesite.
For more information on Arlington Cemetery and a complete explanation of The Changing of the Guard Ceremony: CLICK HERE
Images provided by Demetria Lucas D'Oyley. Video provided by PBS NewsHour. All rights reserved.