Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery The
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery stands atop a hill overlooking
Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified
American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.
The white marble sarcophagus has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners
and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set into the surface.
Sculpted into the east panel which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures
representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. The six wreaths, three sculpted on each
side, represent the six major campaigns of World War I. Inscribed on the back of
the Tomb are the words: Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but
to God The Tomb sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of
World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World
War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs
flush with the plaza.
On May 27, 1868, the first
originally known as Decoration Day, was celebrated to honor the country's fallen
during the Civil War. By proclamation of
A. Logan, "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing
with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense
of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every
city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of
ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such
fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."
Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place
U.S. flags at headstones as part of Flags-In at
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, May 23, 2019.
For more than 55 years, soldiers from the Old Guard have honored our nation's fallen
heroes by placing U.S. flags at gravesites for service members buried at both Arlington
National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery just
prior to the Memorial Day weekend. Within four hours, over 1,000 soldiers place
245,000 flags in front of every headstone and Columbarium and niche wall column.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at
Arlington National Cemetery
with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it
is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions
of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- upon which is
inscribed the familiar, "Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known But
Personal Note: My Uncle Rick Blattenberger, a decorated Army Range during the
early Vietnam War era, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Melanie and I
attended the burial ceremony in the spring of 2012. While there we also watched
the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The precision of the
soldiers' movements for both events was utterly impressive. Shamefully, the changing
of the guard process was halted at one point to get some knucklehead spectators
to quite down and show the proper respect for our nations' fallen service members.
If you have a family member or friend who is interred at Arlington National Cemetery,
you can use the ANC Explorer phone app to locate it.
Updated May 27, 2019