To Provide a Military Guard
7 years ago
On March 2, 1926, Allen J. Furlow, a newly-elected Representative from Rochester, Minnesota, introduced what would become known as House Joint Resolution Number 185. The joint resolution called for ”a military guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington”. The Resolution was then sent to the Committee on Military Affairs. The result was a formal military guard posted at the Tomb on March 25, 1926. Although only posted during the hours of cemetery operation, this was a formal beginning to what eventually evolved into the Sentinels that are present at the Tomb to this day. It would be another 11 years before the guard was posted for 24 hours in order to maintain a constant vigil – one that has gone unbroken to the present day.
The picture that accompanies this article is truly remarkable. According to the Library of Congress this picture represents the first permanent guard at the Tomb. It remains an amazing part of the history of not only the Tomb, but also that of the Sentinels. It caused me a moment of reflection – perhaps this man is the first military guard posted. His name may be lost to history, but his mission will never be forgotten by those that came after him.
Written by Kevin Welker
Congressional Record: 69th Congress, 1st Session, Vol.67, Part 5 (Washington, DC: G.P.O), 4880.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress (Retrieved 18 March 2013).
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Did you know?
How many Sentinels have been female?
There have been over 630 tomb guards awarded the badge since 1958 when we started counting. There are hundreds more from the year 1926 when the Army started guarding the Tomb. The 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) is the unit that has been given the duty of guarding the Tomb. It was given this sacred duty in 1948. The Old Guard was -- and still is -- considered a combat unit. As an Infantry unit, females were not permitted in the ranks for many years. It wasn't until 1994 that females were permitted to volunteer to become a Sentinel when the 289th Military Police Company was attached to the Old Guard. The MP branch is a combat support unit and includes females.
In 1996, SGT Heather Johnson became the first female to earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge. She volunteered for duty in June 1995 and earned her badge in 1996. However, SGT Johnson was not the only female Sentinel. Since then, there have been three additional female Sentinels awarded the Tomb Guard Identification Badge. SGT Danyell Wilson earned her badge in 1997, SSG Tonya Bell received hers in 1998, and SGT Ruth Hanks earned her badge, #643 in June 2015.
Several other units have since been attached to the Old Guard -- food service, transportation, medics, etc. -- so now females have an ever greater opportunity to become a Sentinel. Females must meet the same requirements as the male soldiers to be eligible to volunteer at the Tomb. the only difference is that females have a minimum height of 5'8" -- which is the same standard to be a member of the Old Guard.