Arlington National Cemetery Taps and Unseen Ceremonies

Arlington National Cemetery

Part 3

Chapter 5: Taps,Unseen Ceremonies, Memorials, Memorial Day 2019

Photos and Material by Dan Brodt

(All photos are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. Permission must be had to use any photos that are not documented)

(Page design and editing by Bob Baldwin)

As daylight fades and night overtakes Arlington, silence engulfs the dark hills of the fields of stone. The workday slows to a lone sentinel marching the precision routine he painstakingly addresses: Twenty-one steps south stops, pivots to the east, a sharp click of the heels, standing rigid for twenty-one seconds he wheels a half turn, shifts his M-14 from one shoulder to the other and resumes patrol.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Sentry

Again twenty-one exact steps to the north, turns, faces the Capital again and continues  this ritual for one hour until relieved.

Changing of the Guard

Inspection of the Sentry

Another Arlington tradition steeped in the symbolism along with "the twenty-one steps" is the twenty-one gun salute. These are the two highest honors the military can render. Night brings a change in the dress for the sentries. Gone is the crisp, sharply creased dress blue uniforms with mirror like black shoes, replaced by the BDU, Battle Dress Uniform. The  guards wear the camouflage fatigues during the night patrol. The fact that night hides the sentry and his dress does not lessen the strict discipline and tenseness required to honor the Unknown. It is hard physically and mentally to those soldiers. One might think, "Gee, if the sentry misses his mark, shakes his hands from the cold, gazes into the lights of the city, who would notice'. "He would know." The Unknown notices and does not forget. The Tomb Guards spare no effort to honor the memory of those under their care. The ritual of the Tomb Guard is not a nuisance, not a boring ritual but the metamorphosis of an apple cheeked young soldier into a marble man. He is ready to meet the hour and make the best impression and to let those they guard and honor rememberthat someone still cares.

"Arlington remains the last refuge for these nameless warriors. Here their remain live on long after the guns have fallen silent and the smoke has cleared away. The cemetery also provides a home for the ones who once were lost are now found."[1]

[1] Robert M. Poole, On Hallowed Ground: The Story of ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY(Bloomsbury: New York, 2010),265.   



Battle of the Bulge, 75th Anniversary

Challenger Space Shuttle

Columbia Space Shuttle

Iran Rescue Mission

Lockerbie Memorial



Memorial Day 2019



Next: Part Three, Chapter 6 Expansion

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