Becoming a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns is considered one of the highest honors in the United States Army.
One of the biggest draws at Arlington National Cemetery is The Tomb of the Unknowns, a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. The Tomb is guarded by the stoic-faced Sentinels, soldiers of the United States Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, whose meticulous march draws thousands of tourists every year.
The majority of people who visit the site observe the decorum due a fallen member of the armed services. That is what made a YouTube video recently posted on the social aggregation site Reddit so shocking.
The video shows a Sentinel "walking the mat," with his M14 rifle on his shoulder. In the background, one can hear the sound of several visitors laughing and talking. The Sentinel steps off the mat and in a commanding voice, loudly asks that everyone present maintain an atmosphere of silence. One can almost feel the vicarious embarrassment over the Internet.
"What you see on the video is almost verbatim what they are taught to say," says Maj. John Miller, regiment spokesman. "It is something that they rehearse during their training."
Sgt 1st Class Tanner Welch, a member of the Old Guard, says usually there is no ill will on the part of visitors. He says children sometimes get loose, and people will often drop water bottles and chase them under the chains. Another video on YouTube appears to show just that.
"It happens more often than most people would think," Welch says. "I wouldn't say it's a daily occurrence, but every few days or so."
And lest you worry about the safety of children or others who are incapable of restraining their outbursts, Miller says Sentinels will not bodily confront visitors who fail to heed their warnings.
"There is a public safety officer that works for Arlington National Cemetery that is nearby most of the time, and they would be the ones to ask them to leave the cemetery premises," Miller says.
Even so, after watching that video, it's probably best not to test them.