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LJ Idol Week 6: Heel Turn

The tomb guard marches 21 steps south down, he turns to faces east toward the tomb for 21 seconds.
He then turns to faces north, changes his weapon to outside shoulder, and waits 21 seconds. He marches 21 steps down the mat and faces east for 21 seconds. He finally turns to face south, changes his weapon to the outside shoulder and waits for 21 seconds. He will do this from anywhere between half an hour to two hours until the changing of the guard ceremony. The relief commander will tell the large gathering crowd at the Arlington National Cemetery to be silent for respect.

"Post and orders remain as directed."
"Orders acknowledged."

And thus the tomb guard has been protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continuously, without fail, since 1925, and 24/7 since 1937. He marches in the rain, he marches in the sleet, and he soldiers through blizzards. During blizzards, he is given a small tent, but most guards continue marching on, stating that it is a great honor to guard the tomb and the march must continue. All day and night there will be a specially trained US Army soldier to guard the tomb. The tomb guard must pass a difficult exam and serve for 9 months before being awarded the Guard,Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge, the second rarest-awarded badge. He will take an average of six hours to prepare the heavy wool uniform and continue physical training for the duration of their post.

The first unknown soldier was brought from France after WWI. He was chosen by decorated wounded veteran U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger among four identical caskets of other unknown soldiers. The tomb has since received other "unknown" soldiers from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The tomb of one of the "unknown" Vietnam War soldiers was exhumed and DNA tested in 1998 to reveal the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. It is likely that all Vietnam War soldiers can be identified and no longer be "unknown", but not any earlier than that.

This is a good thing, for the purpose of the tomb is to honor veterans who have died in combat. We don't know their names, we don't know their identities, but we know they served their country and died for it and we know that the sentinels will always be there protecting their final burial place.

It is a humid 82 degrees and raining buckets. It is one of those torrential downpours common in the mid-August Virginia climate. The tomb guard is actually happy it's raining because he was feeling way too hot in his wools anyway. He marches 21 steps south as rain splatters on his face and faces east to the tomb. He thinks about the soldiers, mostly unknown that he presides over for the millionth time. He has pledged his life to protect their grave, since they could not be protected in war. He changes his weapon and faces north, continuing the march.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2017 01:46 am (UTC)

I've seen this in DC. It's amazing, spiritual, beautiful, dramatic and solemn.

Jan. 21st, 2017 02:19 am (UTC)
Jan. 22nd, 2017 04:53 am (UTC)
I liked reading this. I appreciated your description of the weather, too, and the accompanying photo, along with the description of the protection of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It's very moving to hear about what all goes into the guarding of the tomb.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah I saw a meme a while back that reminded me of that photo. They never leave the post, even in massive snow storms or hurricanes.
Jan. 22nd, 2017 07:19 am (UTC)
When I was 17 I went on a field trip to Washington DC. I and the girls I was hanging with met up with one of those soldiers while off duty. He took us behind the scenes and showed us where they practice. It was awe inspiring.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
Wow what a great experience! I'd love to be acquainted with a tomb guard.
Jan. 22nd, 2017 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this. I was not aware of the details. I especially liked the next to last sentence (. . . protected in war"). The marching of the soldier fits in perfectly with the topic.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks! When I read the topic, my first thought was an abrupt change... not necessarily from good to evil, but a change in thought or feelings. Growing to like someone when you didn't earlier... and then I thought "military" and took it that direction.
Jan. 23rd, 2017 03:18 am (UTC)
Nice writing of the ceremony. It really puts you right there. Unfortunately until the 1990s, women were not 'allowed' to serve, however we've since had women serve as guards and it's no longer a solely male soldier post. I visited this tomb when I was in middle school but it would have been nice to have seen it as an adult after I was a little more in touch with the grave and complicated emotions surrounding war so I could better appreciate the gravity of its existence.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yes I read about that! It was something I was thinking to mention... that women are allowed to be tomb guards now too, but only 6 have served ever.
Jan. 24th, 2017 12:15 pm (UTC)
Great use of the prompt and a great reminder of the ultimate sacrifice some have made in the name of our country, and the burden taken up gladly by their brothers in arms.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I always admire how the tomb is always so well-protected, no matter the weather.
Jan. 24th, 2017 02:20 pm (UTC)
Love the imagery love while literal use of the prompt. Well done.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:48 pm (UTC)
thanks! That's one of the directions I went for the prompt. I didn't get the whole wrestling thing and didn't even know about that heh. Though most people didn't really take it in that direction too.
Jan. 26th, 2017 09:12 pm (UTC)
I'm so pleased you wrote this. I knew nothing about the ceremony, and it's an interesting and informative piece that arises naturally out of the prompt.
Jan. 26th, 2017 10:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad it was educational for you : )
Jan. 27th, 2017 02:25 pm (UTC)
This was very informative and a wonderful take on the prompt. Loved it!
Jan. 27th, 2017 05:17 pm (UTC)
Great use of the prompt! This is such an important aspect of the sacrifice our patriots make.
Jan. 27th, 2017 10:14 pm (UTC)
This was a touching tribute.
Jan. 28th, 2017 11:36 am (UTC)
I liked your turn on the subject. Great photo, too!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )