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What are some facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers?

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Quick Answer

One fact about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is that the tomb has been guarded every minute of every day since 1937. Another is that the guards wear moist gloves to improve their grips on their rifles.

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Located in the Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument dedicated to American military service members who died in war without their remains being identified. The marble sarcophagus was originally put in place after World War I, according to the official website of the Arlington National Cemetery. Since that time, Unknowns from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War have been interred beside the World War I soldier.

In 1921, the remains of four unidentified American World War I soldiers were still in France. At the behest of Congress, United States Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger, a highly decorated veteran from the War, selected one of the four identical caskets by placing upon it a white rose. That coffin was transported back to Virginia to be buried in the Unknown monument. The other three deceased soldiers remain to this day in Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France.

Since 1926, Tomb Guards have watched over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, according to the website of the Society of the Honor Guard. It is their sacred duty to keep a constant vigil over the National Shrine and to ensure that no desecration or disrespect is directed at the Tomb. The sentries do not wear any rank insignia and dress in special uniforms that are devoid of rank. This is to guarantee that the guard does not outrank the Unknown Soldiers, whatever their ranks may have been.

Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are the words: "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."

Guards have living quarters underneath the amphitheater steps where they stay during their 24-hour shifts. Guards take 21 steps during their walk across the tomb, which alludes to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest military honor.

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be in top physical shape. He must be between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 2 inches tall, and his waist size cannot exceed 30 inches.

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