Public Lays Flowers at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for First Time in a Century

by Courtney Blackann

For the first time in 100 years, visitors to the Arlington National Cemetery can lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is part of the Tomb’s Centennial Commemoration. This is something guests will celebrate all week long, which will then culminate in a ceremony on Veteran’s Day, November 11.

During the day on November 9th and 10th, people are welcome to walk to the tomb to pay their respects. It’s a respectful tribute to those unknown soldiers who lost their lives in combat. This is something that is otherwise only for members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, nicknamed “The Old Guard.”

“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, of the Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, per the official Arlington National Cemetery website. “The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning. As a sacred memorial site and the grave of three unknown American service members, the Tomb connects visitors with the legacy of the U.S. armed forces throughout the nation’s history.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier History

While the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents many of those unknowns who sacrificed their lives for the sake of our country, it all began in March of 1921. After an unidentified serviceman was brought home from France following World War I, Congress approved a burial ground for him. The burial became a sacred reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They additionally valiantly fought to defend the United States.

Visitors have since come from all over the country to watch the ritual of the Changing of the Guards. This is a reverent ceremony performed by ‘The Old Guard’ when switching shifts. The soldiers have a regimented routine to follow during their watch. And those who stand over the Tomb have earned the position. It one of the Army’s highest honors.

Whenever Arlington National Cemetery is open, guests are welcome to view the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There, they’ll witness the protectors who stand over it. Their shifts alternate between a half-hour and an hour depending on the season.

Because the area will be busy, officials are urging visitors to plan ahead of the events they’d like to attend.

“Members of the public will be able to walk across the plaza from north to south, stopping in front of the Tomb to place their flower at the foot of the ledger stones, and then depart the plaza to the south. The public will be able to pick up flowers on the northwest side of Memorial Amphitheater on Memorial Drive,” according to the Arlington National Cemetery website. “Should a long line develop to pick up and place the flowers, cemetery staff will ensure that the line begins at the intersection of Porter Drive and Memorial Drive on the southwest side of the Amphitheater.”