For the first time in nearly 100 years, members of the public will be able to lay flowers directly in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, VA. It’s a rare opportunity to approach the tomb, a privilege usually reserved to the sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard.” The ceremony is part of the commemoration of the tomb’s centennial.
“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery in a statement. “The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning. As a sacred memorial site and the grave of three unknown American service members, the Tomb connects visitors with the legacy of the U.S. armed forces throughout the nation’s history.”
Arlington National Cemetery is holding the two-day event on Nov. 9 and 10, called The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Public Flower Ceremony. Anyone interested can pay respects to the Unknown Soldier. In addition to allowing the public to walk directly next to the tomb for the first time in decades, those paying their respects will also be able to lay flowers without having to go through the usual request process to do so.
Usually, wreath-laying ceremonies are scheduled through a formal request process submitted by groups well in advance, and only four ceremonies can take place per day. The November event will allow those who register to pay their respects without the usual process’s limitations.
The memorial will be open for the flower ceremony from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the event’s two day run, and while visitors are encouraged to bring their own flowers, complimentary roses, daisies and sunflowers will also be available.
A representative from the Crow Nation will open the ceremony on Nov. 9 by reciting the same prayer given 100 years ago by American-Indian Chief Plenty Coup, and placing flowers on the tomb.
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
Leila has covered global military and security operations from across the U.S., the Middle East, and Latin America.