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Guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington is conducted entirely by women

Guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington is conducted entirely by women for the first time in 84 years

  • For the first time in 84 years, the guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was conducted entirely by women on Friday
  • They were selected for the prestigious vigil after intense training and a series of examinations
  • In a statement on social media, the Old Guard said that while the guard change may be historical, it will not be the last time women perform the ceremony 
  • The Old Guard has been overseeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery since 1948


For the first time in 84 years, the guard change at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery was conducted entirely by women on Friday.

The three women, members of the Old Guard, were selected for the prestigious vigil after intense training and a series of examinations.

‘We commemorate the achievements of these trail-blazing Tomb Guards,’ the Old Guard said in a statement, according to NBC News. ‘While this historic event may be a first, it is not the last.

‘With diversity in our ranks, race, gender, or any characteristics will never hinder, but only enhance the execution of our sacred mission,’ it wrote, adding: ‘As we recognize this monumental day, we reflect on the Unknowns and their ultimate sacrifice.

‘The world will never know their names. Their life’s poetry was silenced in the defense of this great nation.

‘We will never forget their sacrifice, and we will never falter, as our standard will remain perfection.’

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was conducted by three female members of the Old Guard for the first time in 84 years on Friday

The three women, members of the Old Guard, were selected for the prestigious vigil after intense training and a series of examinations

The three women, members of the Old Guard, were selected for the prestigious vigil after intense training and a series of examinations

In a statement on social media, the Old Guard said there will be more all-female guard changes in the coming year as it becomes more diverse

In a statement on social media, the Old Guard said there will be more all-female guard changes in the coming year as it becomes more diverse

The military guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed in an elaborate ceremony every hour on the hour from October 1 through March 31 and every half hour from April 1 through September 30.

It has been conducted by the Old Guard since 1948, with soldiers from nearby Fort Meyer originally assigned to guard the tomb and discourage visitors from climbing or stepping on it. In 1937, the guards became a full-time presence. 

As part of the vigil, the members of the Old Guard march 21 steps down the black mat behind the tomb, turn and face East for 21 seconds and turn and face North for 21 seconds before taking 21 steps down the mat.

The Guard members then execute a sharp ‘shoulder-arms’ movement, according to the tomb’s website, to place his or her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or  she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.

The number 21 signifies the highest symbolic military honor a soldier can earn – the 21 gun salute.   

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been a staple of Arlington National Cemetery since 1921

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been a staple of Arlington National Cemetery since 1921

In January, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a wreath-laying ceremony as part of Biden's inauguration

In January, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a wreath-laying ceremony as part of Biden’s inauguration

The Unknown Soldier was first placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington D.C. and to the Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 1921.

A state funeral was held at the cemetery’s new Memorial Amphitheater, and the soldier was interred at the tomb as a tribute to all of the American soldiers who died in battle and have never been identified. 

Arlington National Cemetery is now planning a public ceremony on Veterans’ Day, marking the century since the Unknown Soldier was interred. It was also holding a series of in-person and virtual events leading up to the event.

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