Class '57
Centerville High School
Centerville, IA

Writings -- Joyce Thornton -- (As received, collected and posted by JSteele)


      To be a guard at the Tomb, it must take a special kind of person.

      Did you know. . . . . .
      1. How many steps does the guard take during
      his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why?
      {21 steps.  It alludes to the twenty-one gun
      salute, which is the highest honor given any
      military or foreign dignitary.}
      2. How long does he hesitate after his about
      face to begin his return walk and why?
      {21 seconds for the same reason as answer
      number 1.}
      3. Why are his gloves wet?
      {His gloves are moistened to prevent his
      losing his grip on the rifle.}
      4. Does he carry his rifle on the same
      shoulder all the time, and if not, why not?
      {He carries the rifle on the shoulder away
      from the tomb. After his march across the path,
      he executes an about face, and moves the
      rifle to the outside shoulder.}
      5. How often are the guards changed?
      {Guards are changed every thirty minutes,
      twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.}
      6. What are the physical traits of the guard
      limited to?
      {For a person to apply for guard duty at the
      tomb, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall
      and his waist size cannot exceed 30".}
      Other requirements of the Guard:
      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. They cannot swear in
      public for the rest of their lives and cannot
      disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the
      tomb in any way.
      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 shoes are specially made with very thick
      soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet.
      There are metal heel plates that extend to the
      top of the shoe in order to make the loud click
      as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles,
      folds or lint on the uniform.
      Guards dress for duty in front of a
      full-length mirror.
      The first six 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. Among the
      notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis {the
      boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy,
      {the most decorated soldier of WWII} of
      Hollywood fame.
      Every guard spends five hours a day getting
      his uniforms ready for guard duty.
      I don't know if you saw this in the news but it
      really impressed me.
      Funny, our US Senate/House took 2 days off as
      they couldn't work because of the expected storm.
      On the ABC evening news, it was reported
      tonight that, because of the dangers from
      Hurricane Isabelle approaching Washington DC,
      the military members assigned the duty of
      guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
      were given permission to suspend the assignment.
      They respectfully declined the offer, "No way, Sir!"
      Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain
      of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the
      Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the
      highest honor that can be afforded to a
      The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7,
      since 1930.
      I don't usually suggest that many emails be
      forwarded, but I'd be very proud if this one
      reached as many citizens of the world as possible.
      We can be very proud of our young men and women
      in the service no matter where they serve.
      God Bless them.

                                  Provided courtesy of Joyce Thornton, CHS Class '57, June 21, 2004.

Created: June 21, 2004  JSteele