I read this recently and found it absolutely fascinating:
This question was asked on a quiz show recently and none of the contestants were able to answer it correctly: 'How many steps does the guard take during his walk across the tomb of the unknown soldiers?' It is in fact 21.
The following facts relate to this national monument in Arlington Cemetery:
21 steps equate to a 21-gun salute, which is the highest honour that can be given to any military person or foreign dignity.
The guard hesitates for exactly 21 seconds before his about-face for the return walk.
His gloves are always moistened to prevent him losing his grip on his rifle.
His rifle is always on the shoulder furthest away from the tomb so on his about-face the rifle is changed to his other shoulder.
The guards are changed every half-hour, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.
For a prospective guard to apply for guard duty, he must be between 5' 10" and 6' 2" tall with a waist size not exceeding 30".
They must commit to a two-year period of guard duty, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink 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 or tomb in any way.
After two years the guard is give a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel to signify they have served as a guard of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of his life or relinquish the pin.
Their shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat and cold from their feet. The shoes have metal heel plates that extend to the top of the shoe in order to make a loud click as they come to a halt.
There are no wrinkles, folds or lints on the uniform. Guards dress for duty in front of a full-length mirror.
During the first six months of a duty a guard cannot talk to anyone or watch television. All off-duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorise who they are and where they are interred. Among these important people are:
Joe Louis the boxer.
Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy who is the most-decorated US soldier of WW2.
Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniform ready for guard duty.
In 2003, as Hurricane Isabelle was bearing down on Washington D.C., the U.S. Senate took a two-day recess because of the storm. ABC News reported that because of the danger posed by the hurricane the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers were asked if they wanted to suspend their guard duties. They respectfully refused saying that no matter what the danger from the weather and no matter how wet they got, guarding the tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honour that can be awarded to military personnel.
The tomb has been continuously patrolled since 1930.
Quite an amazing set of facts really that goes to show the esteem that America's war dead are held in.