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To: SandRat
Interesting, but wrong. I'm all for supporting the troops, I'm a vet myself, but please do so accurately.

From the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier FAQ site (

How long does the Sentinel hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?

He does not execute an about face. 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.

Is it true they must commit 2 years of life to guard the Tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives?

No, this is a false rumor. The average tour at the Tomb is about a year. There is NO set time for service there. The Sentinels live either in a barracks on Ft. Myer (the Army post located adjacent to the cemetery) or off base if they like. They do have living quarters under the steps of the amphitheater where they stay during their 24 hour shifts, but when they are off, they are off. And if they are of legal age, they may drink anything they like, except while on duty.

Is it true they cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives?

Again, another false rumor. How could that be enforced?

Is it true after two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as Guard of the Tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The Guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin?

The Tomb Guard Identification Badge is awarded after the Sentinel passes a special test. The Badge is permanently awarded after a Sentinel has served 9 months. Currently there are 525 awarded. And while the Badge can be revoked, the offense must be very severe, such as a felony conviction. But you can drink a beer and even swear and still keep the Badge. And the Badge is a full size award, worn on the right pocket of the uniform jacket, not a lapel pin.

Are the shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet?

The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand so that his back is straight and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can "roll" on the outside of the build up as he walks down the mat. This allows him to move in a fluid fashion. If he does this correctly, his hat and bayonet will appear to not "bob" up and down with each step. It gives him a more formal and smooth look to his walk, rather than a "marching" appearance.

The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a "horseshoe" steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.

Then there is the "clicker". It is a shank of steel attached to the inside of the face of the heel build-up on each shoe. It allows the Sentinel to click his heels during certain movements. If a guard change is really hot, it is called a "smoker" because all the heel clicks fall together and sound like one click. In fact, the guard change is occasionally done in the "silent" mode (as a sign of devotion to the Unknowns"). No voice commands - every thing is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts.

"The first 6 months of duty a guard cannot 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. Every guard spends 5 hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty."

I strongly suspect this is inaccurate as well, but can't say for sure.

The Tomb is guarded 24/7, rain or shine. The comments about the Sentinels disobeying a direct order and staying at their post during Hurricane Isabel is accurate. This is backed up by several sources, including the SotHG.
13 posted on 05/15/2004 12:20:11 PM PDT by mstork5
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To: mstork5

I don’t know if you’re still here, but thanks for the clarification.

31 posted on 08/27/2011 9:23:27 PM PDT by Grizzled Bear (No More RINOs!!!)
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