If you have never had the pleasure of seeing the changing of the guards at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, it is a sight to behold. It occurs at the tomb of the unknowns—a monument erected to pay homage to the servicemen who have died without identification of their remains. The changing of the guards is comparable to a stop-start ballet of sorts, guards alternate between smooth and sharp, silence and staccato pops. Every action is crisp and decisive until disrespectful onlookers laugh.
After an inspection is completed, the ceremony continues with walking and stillness. The men salute the tomb, they fall into step, while the outgoing sentinel leaves, another takes up his slow pacing along the black rubber mat in front of the tomb.
But for one guard, the usually quiet exchange turned into a disrespectful one when visitors of the cemetery disregarded the rules of silence. “It is requested that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect”, yells the soldier as he stops in stance and demands silence from a flippant crowd. There was silence thereafter.
For many people, a visit to the historic cemetery is just another stop at one of the city’s many monuments and memorials. But for others it is the most important cemetery in the country that is the final resting place for our nation’s heroes.