Click for larger version. Also, see my photoblogging of my visit to the USS Arizona Memorial.
In Honored Glory
An American Soldier
Known But To God”
The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns
If you have not seen the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Iâ€™ve witnessed it more than once and highly recommend it.
The guard is changed every hour on the hour Oct. 1 to March 31 in an elaborate ritual. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5 to 7 p.m.
An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknowns who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor. Then the relief commander orders the relieved sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the black mat. When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.
The ritual is slow. It is determined. It is meticulous. It is touching.
The majesty of the ceremony lies in its detailed, determined nature. It shows that our honored dead are not remembered only one day a year by our military — their memory is unfailingly revered . Their sacrifices receive tribute constantly from both comrades and strangers. Such is as it should be, both in the military and among all of the citizenry that value the freedoms and security that have been bought and paid for in blood and sacrifice. Our heroes deserve their special day, but their honor deserves our hearts throughout the year.
(On a side note, the above photos were taken by my then-girlfriend-now-new-bride. The photo of the ceremony was perfect in every way but one, a slight discoloration I was unable to overcome. In desperation, I tried the embossed effect and was quite happy with the outcome.)