The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery is just a bit outside of Washington DC. The tomb was built in the early 1920’s.
4 March 1921, Public Resolution 67 of the 66th Congress.
The body of an unidentified soldier, killed in France, was laid to eternal rest in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater on 11 November 1921. This soldier represents all the unidentified and missing from World War I. There now are 3 unknown soldiers buried there. One each from WW1, WW2 and Korea
There has been a guard at the tomb since 1925. In 1926 the civilian guard was replaced by military guards. In 1937 the guarding of the tomb became 24/7. The tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since then. The ceremony we see today has evolved over the years. The guarding duty is carried out by the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard).
How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?
He takes 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
How long does he hesitate to begin his return walk and why?
He stops on the 21st step, then turns and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds. Then he turns to face back down the mat, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder, counts 21 seconds, then steps off for another 21 step walk down the mat. He faces the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until he is relieved at the Guard Change.
Why are his gloves wet?
His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.
How often are the guards changed?
The Guard is changed every thirty minutes during the summer (April 1 to Sep 30) and every hour during the winter (Oct 1 to Mar 31). During the hours the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every 2 hours. The Tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every day since 1937.
On the west face of the tomb is the following inscription.
Here Rests In
Known But To God