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Sentinels reflect on what it means to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier​: "The mission is still the same"

Honoring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Honoring the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 05:22

November 11th, 2021 marks 30,814 days that Tomb Sentinels have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located in Arlington National Cemetery. It's a tradition that has been a part of our country for 100 years. 

"Our mission is twofold—one, to maintain a continuous ceremonial guard and watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And the second aspect is to ensure that every visitor from this nation, from every nation, witnesses the highest standards and traditions of not only the United States Army, but this nation," First Lieutenant Andrew Katz told CBS News.

They guard the historic monument in Virginia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year under any weather condition presented. The Sentinels' dedication is only a small token of gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice the unknown soldiers gave to their country.

"Snow, sleet, whether it be heavy winds or hail, or, God forbid, tornadoes or hurricanes, we're still expected to go out there and do the same job to the same level of proficiency. We still go about conducting the mission the same way because at the end of the day, the mission is still the same," said Sergeant Trevor Drahem.  

In 1921, then-President Warren G. Harding delivered a famous speech as part of the dedication ceremony. 

In the speech, he eulogized the anonymous soldier who died fighting in World War I. Today, to be a part of the sentinel is considered one of the highest honors a soldier can have. According to the Society of the Honor Guard, since 1958, over 680 tomb guards have been awarded the badge—a badge only given to those who have been chosen to serve as members of the Guard. 

"So, the first day I changed the guard was roughly four and a half months ago and I have honestly never been more scared in my life," Staff Sergeant William Matyas. "As I stood in front of the door, one of my fellow staff sergeants came up to me and said, 'The reason you're nervous is because you care. So, hold on to that.'" 

This Veterans Day, November 11, marks the 100th anniversary of the day the first unknown was laid to rest at the site. The memorial has evolved in that time but the tradition and remains the same.  

"Back when the tomb was first constructed, people would used to come and take pieces before it was guarded. They would take pieces of the tomb as a bit of closure to take home as the unknown soldier could be their brother or their father, or somebody in their family who never returned from war," said Staff Sergeant Chadwick Winget. "And so I like to think about that often. We always say that what we do here is it acts as a continuous funeral service that will be going on as long as any of us are capable to keep doing the job." 

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