TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

SOMETHING TO CHERISH
From Dr. N. Faulkner via BGen Clements. No original source given

ARLINGTON, Va. - As the winds from the September 2003 Hurricane Isabel swept over Arlington National Cemetery, park officials gave soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns permission to abandon their posts and seek shelter.

“They told us that… but that's not what's going to happen,” said Sgt. Christopher Holmes, standing vigil on overnight duty. “That's never an option for us. It went in one ear and right out the other.”

Established in 1921, the monument began as the interment of an unknown World War I soldier. In time, unknowns from later wars also were included. The Army has posted sentries there continuously since 1930.

With the fierce storm bearing down, cemetery officials decided to let the guards move indoors if they felt they were in danger. Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler said he believed it was the first time that was ever allowed.

Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment protect the tomb, standing guard on rotating shifts 24-hours a day, assisted now by security cameras. Staff Sgt. Alfred Lanier noted, “Once you become a badge holder, it's like you'll do whatever you have to do to guard the unknowns. For one, it's my job, and for two, that's just how much respect I have for the unknowns. That's just something we cherish.”

Holmes said he was willing to risk his life keeping watch over the tomb. “It's just considered to be the greatest honor to go out there and guard. It's not only the unknowns. It's a symbol that represents everyone who's fought and died for our country.”

The cemetery is the resting place that honors more than 260,000. Twenty-one funerals were held there Thursday, and sixteen scheduled for the following day.

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