It's Memorial Day weekend--woooohooooo!
Before you get all crazy with the baked beans and potato salad, humor me a bit and give a look to this video.
And here's your quick history lesson to get you started:
Pretty much every country has a memorial to unknown/unidentified fallen soldiers. The main one in the US is the Tomb of the Unknowns/Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery--either name is fine, as it has never been officially named.
Quick factoid: Arlington is built on property once owned by the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. What else was built on land once held by his family? Well, I'll give you a hint: it's just outside of Washington DC and was named for the family's old homeplace in England...Langley. (If you're not a spy geek, Langley, VA is the home of CIA headquarters.)
The Tomb of the Unknowns holds the remains of a WWI soldier killed in France, who was not identified and whose remains are unlikely ever to be identified. It is a memorial to all soldiers whose remains have not been identified and returned to the family for proper burial. The last line of the inscription on the Tomb reads "Known But to God." Other remains were added later, to represent the fallen in later wars.
Since 1937, the Tomb has been guarded 24/7/365. During inclement weather, during a hurricane of all things, the soldiers guarding the Tomb have refused to leave their post and to take cover.
It is the highest honor to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb. Sentinels are selected from the ranks of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and undergo rigorous training. The Sentinel does not wear any indicator of rank, so that he does not outrank the Unknown, whatever his rank had been.
Tourists flock to see the Changing of the Guard...a wonderfully precise military exercise that's well worth your time if you happen to be in the DC area.
So, here's your video link. This is 9 minutes long...but if you can't dedicate 9 minutes of your life to someone who fought and died for it (guilt, much?)....skip to about 4:30 to get past the inspection of the Sentinels. Contrary to some smart-ass remarks you'll hear, it is not disrespectful for the Sentinel to wear the sunglasses; the glare off the marble is so intense, he could not see otherwise and he DOES have duties other than just marchng back and forth in front of the tomb. Sadly, it's his job also to keep punk-ass individuals from defacing or damaging the Tomb, or just in general acting disrespectfully.
So, without further ado-be-do-be-do, here's the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Now, go have a great weekend!