Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier early in the morning at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, August 7, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

For the first time in nearly a century, members of the public can come inside the chains at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza and lay a flower to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sacred site, according to the Arlington National Cemetery.

In honor of the centennial, which will be marked Nov. 11, the public will have the opportunity to lay flowers in front of the tomb on Nov. 9 and 10. Registration is required.

“This is a rare opportunity for the public to walk next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a privilege otherwise given only to the sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, ‘The Old Guard,’” according to an Arlington National Cemetery news release. 

Since Nov. 11, 1921, the tomb has been the resting place for one of America’s unidentified World War I service members, and additional unknowns were added in 1958 and 1984. The tomb has been under the constant watch of soldiers since July 1937. 

In addition to the flower-laying ceremony, there will be a 21-gun salute on Nov. 9 and a wreath ceremony and joint flyover on Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. For those unable to attend in person, the cemetery has a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier exhibit that can be viewed virtually on Twitter. 

A group of nonprofits, led by the Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Foundation, is organizing local commemorations of the centennial. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continues to inspire Americans to reflect on their fundamental values, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of the Office of Army Cemeteries. 

“The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery,” she said. “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.”

Paul Lara covers the military beat. Reach him at

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