A holiday for many, Memorial Day was a regular work-day for the elite Army Guards who stand watch, 24/7, over Arlington Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. To gain selection, these devoted soldiers go through a rigorous process, committing to 2-years of Tomb guard-duty, and strict rules covering all aspects of their service life. Guards change-out every 30-minutes, around the clock. Walking singular-guard, they take exactly 21-steps across the prescribed-path in front of the Tomb and back, the number relating directly to the highest military honor, the 21-gun salute.
Justifiably, the guard on-duty expects those in the visitor's area to observe proper decorum and reverence during the course of his protective walk. Recently, on-lookers had become too noisy, clearly forgetting the meaning of where they were. Finally, the guard stopped mid-walk, faced the on-lookers, and with quiet, but firm authority, reminded them of the respect required. The crowd hushed, and the guard resumed his precise walk.
The guards perform their duty around-the-clock, no matter what. Back in 2003, as a hurricane headed for the D.C. area, Congress adjourned and the city hunkered-down. With safety an issue, the guards were given the option of standing-down. They refused. Amidst the pelting downpour and punishing winds, they continued their dedicated walk. Just a few years ago, Washington faced a blizzard. Once again, the town shut down. Deserted, that is, except for those dedicated guards, out in the bitter cold, in continual duty at the Tomb. Memorial Day in America is a sacred one. But every day, and duty, is sacred to those special Army soldiers at Arlington, totally-devoted to the memory and honored sacrifice of America's fallen heroes.