By Bethany Schneekloth
When the school year began, my classmates and I anticipated the senior class trip to D.C. We went on our trip, just not to D.C. The trip was still an exciting learning experience, but I missed out on seeing places and things that have held my interest for many years. One of the many things I missed out on seeing was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery sits adjacent to Washington, D.C. on the southwestern side of the Potomac River in Arlington County, Virg., the National Cemetery is made up of 693 acres. Filled with the dead of American conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the conflicts of today, roughly 400,000 veterans and their eligible dependents. Two presidents lay at rest on the grounds as well. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated on November 11, 1921, where the soldier of World War I was laid to rest, making 2021 the centennial of the Tomb.
Over these last 100 years, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has become the most recognizable and visited part of the cemetery. Initially, the Tomb was a simple marble slab that received thousands of visitors a year. The Tomb is made out of Yule marble from Colorado, consisting of seven pieces weighing in at 79 tons, and when it was completed in 1932, it cost $48,000. Each side of the Tomb is decorated with symbols or words with meanings.
Carved onto the northern and southern sides of the Tomb are three wreaths. The front of the Tomb (eastern side) has three soldiers representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. On the western side, the words “Here rests in honored glory An American Soldier Known but to God” are inscribed for all to see. The Tomb is guarded 24/7 by an armed guard who is a volunteer member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in full dress carrying an M-14 rifle. These are all traditions that have been in place for years, and there will be information released later this year along with events that can be viewed by the public.
In October, there will be a commemorative work published by the U.S. Army Military History that will be available online and in print form. The week of the 100th year will have a Naval District of Washington historical plaque dedication, naval symposium, and 21-Gun Salute Ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard (November 9, 2021), and a U.S. Army Military District of Washington Public Flower Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (November 9-10, 2021). On November 11, 2021, there will be a U.S. Army Military District of Washington Joint Full Honors Procession, meant to evoke elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession and an Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath-Laying Ceremony followed by the National Veterans Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater.
This is only but a small overview of the knowledge that the Arlington National Cemetery has to offer. I could honestly spend hours talking about this piece of American History but I am limited to only so many words. More information on this subject is available on the official Arlington National Cemetery website and others. I hope you take time to read up more on this subject and maybe one day go and see it for yourself. I know I will.
I would like to end my final article by thanking those of you who have read my writing these last two years, and it means so much to me that I can share with more people than I ever thought I would.
Bethany Schneekloth is a student at Mabel-Canton High School. She is one of nine area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 22nd year.