The Tomb Guard
Serving at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) was a defining period in the lives of many Tomb Guards. Although Tomb Guards come from every state in the United States of America (US) and every walk of life, they are forever bonded through their shared experience of service at the Tomb. A strong bond was formed through an extremely demanding and humbling experience.
"It had not even been a week after first arriving at Ft. Myer in Feb. 1972 that I first visited the Tomb and witnessed the guard change. I was so impressed by the solemnity and precision of it that I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a part of it and immediately asked permission for a tryout. Permission was granted and I spent the next two and a half years as a Sentinel, Assistant Relief Commander and Relief Commander." ~ Richard Carlson (1972-74)
Tomb Guards are handpicked and rigorously trained, and they describe their service as a privilege and an honor, and are undeniably proud of their service. They are part of an unbroken chain of Soldiers dating back to March 25, 1926. The ideals of the Tomb became the guidepost for their lives, as well as a motivating factor and measuring stick for future endeavors. The Sentinel’s Creed is the Tomb Guard standard. The 99 words of the creed capture the true meaning of their duty. You will often hear the words “Line-6” proudly uttered by Tomb Guards as they converse with each other or with their chain of command.
Who Are the Tomb Guards?
The soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are hand picked and rigorously trained. They have come from every state in the union, every walk of life. There are men and women. For some this is their first unit in the Army, others are veterans of many years. Over the years there have been Regular Army and Draftees.
As a Tomb Guard you are asked many different questions by the public, but the one that we hear the most is: "When did you join the Marines?"
The United States Army was given the honor of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926, as the Army is the oldest of the military services. Prior to 1926, there were no military guards posted at the Tomb. In fact, after the internment of the Unknown Soldier in 1921, the Tomb remained unguarded until 1925, when a civilian guard would be present during the day. The military posted its first guard on March 25th, 1926.
The weapons used by the Tomb Guard are more than just for show. These weapons are fully functional and are kept ready for use at all times. The weapon inspection conducted prior to the new Sentinel assuming the post, is a real inspection.
Over the years there have been many different types of weapons used by the Tomb Guards. The changes in weapons reflect the changes in the Army, however each weapon system is picked for good reasons.
Support the Society
The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (SHGTUS) is able to provide our programs, events, assistance, scholarships, and services due to the generosity of its members, organizations, and individuals. SHGTUS does not receive institutional funding. Note: The Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your contributions may be fully tax deductible.
Did you know?
Has anyone ever tried to get past the Tomb guards, or attempted to deface the Tomb?
Yes, that is the reason why we now guard the Tomb. Back in the early 1920's, we didn't have guards and the Tomb looked much different. It was flat at ground level without the 70 ton marble 'cap'. People often came to the cemetery in those days and a few actually used the Tomb as a picnic area, likely because of the view. Soon after in 1925, they posted a civilian guard. In 1926, a US Army soldier was posted during cemetery hours. On July 1, 1937 guard duty was expanded to the 24 hour watch. Since then, the ceremony has evolved throughout the years to what you see today. Today, most of the challenges faced by the Sentinels are tourists who are speaking too loudly or attempting to get a better picture (by entering the post).