If you have ever been to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, I’m sure you were impressed with the dignity, the precision, the pomp and circumstance of that inspiring monument. I have been there on three different occasions now over the years and each time I find it to be a very moving experience.
This video is the best I have seen on the history of both the Tomb Guards and the monument itself. Every aspect of the application and training details of the elite soldiers who guard the tomb is covered here, including some bursting-of-the-bubble of some of the urban myths about them.
The motto of the Old Guard, Tomb Guards is “Noli Me Tangere” (Touch Me Not). This is not simply an imperious command, but a recognition that what they guard in that marble tomb is greater than a single unknown solder, that it is about the unimaginable cost that has been paid by over two centuries of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and all that it means to human freedoms. It is a recognition that this Unknown Soldier represents the millions who served and sacrificed anonymously, who would never become famous, but whose dedication and service and ultimate sacrifice is valued, treasured, honored and will never be forgotten.
A soldier who wishes to become a Tomb Guard has to apply to be a part of that elite unit. As you will learn in the video, of the numbers who apply for this prestigious position, only about 20% are accepted and only a small percentage of them will finally become Tomb Guards, or “Badge Holders.” That Tomb Guard Badge is the third rarest badge given out in all of the military. And, unlike others military badges, it is the only one that can be revoked, for conduct that goes against its honor.
The training for this elite unit is both a physical and mental challenge like no other. You will get a clear sense of the incredible attention to detail these Tomb Guards must learn, and perform during their time in the unit. They are trained in seven different types of ceremonies. Everything about them and their duties involves absolute self-discipline and precision. That includes every detail of their uniforms, their carriage and movements while performing their duties before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It takes a very rare type to be able to learn all of these detail, but more importantly, to understand the incredible honor of this very special guard duty. It is more than just a job. It is a recognition of the ultimate sacrifice, the courage, the dedication of those who gave their last full measure to honor and protect the values that the country is founded upon. It is all about the dignity and the duties of patriotism in its best, most honorable and noble sense.
These Tomb Guards know that their job is more than mere ceremony. The Guards all carry out their duties in honor of the fallen, knowing that they are guarding, in the person of the Unknown Soldier, those who have fallen, who could not be identified, but who, in their anonymity have become honored sons to all of nation, who gave their lives in honor of the values that make this nation unique in its Constitution and its ideals.
Watch this video and, if you go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, remember its details. It will give you a much more profound understanding of what the Tomb and its Tomb Guards are about and why it is so special to all Americans. You will go there with the proper respect that is due at this powerful monument to the cost of freedom.