A crowd learned an important life lesson at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after being reprimanded by the guard on duty.
Showing respect is apparently hard for some people. When a crowd in attendance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier didn’t properly appreciate the solemnity of the occasion, the guard on duty straightened them out with just a few words.
The crowd burst into laughter for an unknown reason, as the guard was pacing back and forth in front of the Tomb, performing the meticulous routine known as “walking the mat.” Protecting the Tomb is his number one duty, but commanding silence out of respect for the honored dead is a close second.
When the laughter began, the guard instantly halted, pivoted, and confronted the crowd.
“It is requested that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect,” he demanded.
The guard was holding his M14 rifle in front of his body in the “port arms” position, signifying his role as the sentinel standing between the Tomb and any potential threat.
He held his position until the crowd was silenced. When dignity was restored, he turned and continued his rounds.
Serving at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Being selected to serve as the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the highest possible honors, as only 20% of volunteers are accepted into the training program, and only a fraction of those volunteers become Tomb Guards.
Tomb Guards are all members of the U.S. Army, part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment known as the “Old Guard.” Guards do not wear rank insignia, as they should not outrank the Unknowns interred there.
The Old Guard has served since 1784, which makes it the oldest Army infantry unit to still serve on active duty.
Each movement of “walking the mat” contains exactly 21 steps, with a 21 second pause before changing direction. The moves are symbolic of the highest honor of a military funeral: the “21-gun Salute.”
On the Tomb’s West Panel are inscribed these words:
HERE RESTS IN
KNOWN BUT TO GOD