of the Unkowns
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rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."
That inscription marks the 80-ton white marble sarcophagus of
the World War I casualty at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb
sits atop two layers of soil from the battlefields of France.
Over the years,
the original unknown soldier has been joined by three other unidentified
servicemen from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War,
buried in crypts under slabs flush with the terrace paving. The
four unknown soldiers at the site represent all unidentified casualties
from the wars.
clock, seven days a week, regardless of the weather, a lone sentinel
from the 3rd U.S. Infantry patrols the area. Throughout each watch,
the sentinel repeatedly marches 21 steps, pauses for 21 seconds
and returns. (The number of steps and duration of the pause symbolize
a 21-gun salute, the highest honor given at military funerals.)
The changing of the guard, a precise and elaborate military ritual,
takes place every half hour from April through September and hourly
during the rest of the year.
National Cemetery also is the final resting place for more than
245,000 other servicemen and their family members. The 612-acre
cemetery sits across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial
on land confiscated from the Robert E. Lee family during the Civil
© 1997 Terry White, Drawing © 1997 Bill Harrah