Centennial Flag for the Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Since 1921, Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Solider has served as a place of memory and mourning, a powerful symbol of service and sacrifice. It is the Cemetery’s most iconic memorial, visited by millions every year, and guarded 24 hours a day by rigorously trained, handpicked soldiers, known respectfully as Tomb Guards.

On November 11, 2021, the monument will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and Gettysburg Flag Works is honored to have created a custom Centennial Flag for the momentous occasion. The flag was commissioned by The Society of the Honor Guard, and pays tribute to the soldiers who have watched over the Tomb since 1926.

About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

On March 4, 1921, the U.S. Congress approved the burial of an unidentified World War I veteran in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, and the remains were interred in a ceremony on November 11, 1921. Two additional Unknowns from World War II and the Korean War were interred in crypts to the west of the World War I Unknown in 1958.

A fourth Unknown Solider, from the Vietnam War, was laid to rest at the Tomb in May 1984. However, when DNA testing positively identified the remains as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie in 1998, the remains were moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, at the request of the family.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington national cemetery.

The 1921 Tomb was originally a simple slab of marble, however, the monument that visitors see today was completed in April 1932. The sarcophagus is decorated on all four sides: the side panels to the north and south contain three wreaths. On the front panel, facing east, are three figures representing Peace, Victory and Valor, and the west-facing back panel features the inscription, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

About the Tomb Guards

The soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider are hand-selected and rigorously trained. They are both men and women, from all over the United States, and they can be relatively new to the Army, or veterans of many years.

As the oldest branch of the military, the Army was given the honor of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926, but only during daylight hours to discourage visitors from climbing or standing on the Tomb. In 1937, the guards began to stand watch 24 hours a day.

Ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb Guards must undergo a strict selection process and training. It is a demanding and humbling experience. Each Guard follows a meticulous routine while on duty, all based on the number 21, which symbolizes the highest military honor of the 21-gun salute.

The Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, then turns and faces north for 21 seconds, before taking 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his or her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, to signify that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.

The duties of the sentinels are not simply ceremonial, however. In fact, the Tomb Guards will confront anyone who crosses the barrier or who is being disrespectful or inappropriately loud.

About the Centennial Flag

The Centennial Flag for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created for The Society of the Honor Guard, and the Soldiers who have, and continue, to stand guard. The flag features the full color Centennial seal on a white background. The seal itself features the monument in the center, encircled with a gold olive wreath and the words, “Tomb of the Unknown Solider”, along with the dates 1921-2021.

Made in the USA of durable all-weather nylon, the single-sided flag includes metal grommets on the hem for hanging on a flag pole. Visit The Society of the Honor Guard Store to learn more.

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