As often happens, I was inspired this morning by Charles Osgood. He had a wonderful segment devoted to Arlington National Cemetery, this one focusing on its history.
Did you know? I didn't! (The older I get, the more I realize I don't know. Is that true with you?) What I didn't 'know' ... well, maybe I heard it said once or twice, but obviously it went in one ear and out the other ... was that Arlington was once the home of General Robert E. Lee. Did you know that?
A real estate agent from Pearland (just south of Hobby Airport here in Houston) published -- and for several years -- a monthly newsletter. Some fact, some fiction, a lot of jokes ... think I have saved most of them. The following is taken directly from one of her newsletters.
Did you know ......
1. How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the Unknowns and why? 21 steps. It alludes to the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given any military or foreign dignitary.
2. How long does he hesitate after his about face to begin his return walk and why? 21 seconds for the same reason as answer number 1.
3. Why are his gloves wet? His gloves are moistened to prevent his losing his grip on the rifle.
4. Does he carry his rifle on the same shoulder all the time, and if not, why not? He carries the rifle on the shoulder away from the tomb. After his march across the path, he executes an about face, and moves the rifle to the outside shoulder.
5. How often are the guards changed? Guards are changed every thirty minutes, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.
6. What are the physical traits of the guard limited to? For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be between 5'10" and 6'2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30".
They must commit 2 years of life to guard the tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform (fighting) or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin. The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt. There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror. The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe E. Lewis (the boxer) and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, (the most decorated soldier of WWII) of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty.
Funny, our US Senate/House took 2 days off as they couldn't work because of the expected storm. On the ABC evening news, it was reported tonight that, because of the dangers from Hurricane Isabelle approaching Washington DC, the military members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were given permission to suspend the assignment. They respectfully declined the offer, "No, way, Sir!" Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding the Tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person. The tomb has been patrolled continuously, 24/7, since 1930. We can be very proud of our young men and women in the service no matter where they serve.
The above was copied verbatim from a newsletter published less than five years ago.
My own immediate family's history has no war heroes. (In fact, my brother was a conscientious objector, and my sister sat on a nuclear submarine to try and keep it from being launched.) You have to go back to the Hatfield/McCoy era (my mother -- who was a McCoy -- always said, altho DD says that, in all of her searches through genealogical records, she has been unable to find that link [and believe me, her searches have been extensive!] to find any relationship or 'warring' at all! Another thing my mother always said was that I was eligible to be a member of the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution]. I don't remember whether or not I ever asked DD to check into that one! And, I didn't take any notes at all on whatever facts Mother might have had at hand to verify her statement because I wasn't the least bit interested at the time. I regret it now, of course!)
I have a tremendous amount of personal regard for all of the men and women, past and present, who have represented this wonderful country so well. I feel humbled that I am included as one of a huge number of recipients of their service and sacrifice.
God bless America, and let us not EVER forget those who have gone before! Amen.