Heading to Washington on a Road Trip – Part One
Washington Here we come!
Wake up early, very early, crazy early and drive eight hours. That’s how our day started for our road trip to Washington DC. We made good travel time and checked in to our great Hotel #ResidenceInnPentagonCity and unloaded our luggage. Since we had just been sitting for an 8-hour drive we wanted to get out for a walk. We headed over to the Pentagon 911 memorial site which is only a five minute walk from the hotel.
The Pentagon, Washington
First I have to say there are signs everywhere at the Pentagon “no photographs” we did not want to test what would happen, there was a lot of very big men in uniform so we have no photos of the Pentagon itself. We walked over to the Memorial site which is a permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people who died. The sculptures are designed as benches that have the names of all that died, depending on which way the bench faced told you if they died on the plane or in the building. The Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.
Arlington Cemetary, Washington
Next stop on our walking tour that night was Arlington Cemetery. We made it in time to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Walking the mat
There is a meticulous routine the guard follows when watching over the graves.
The Tomb Guard:
- Marches 21 steps south down the black mat laid across the Tomb.
- Turns and faces east, toward the Tomb, for 21 seconds.
- Turns and faces north, changes weapon to outside shoulder, and waits 21 seconds.
- Marches 21 steps down the mat.
- Turns and faces east for 21 seconds.
- Turns and faces south changes weapon to outside shoulder, and waits 21 seconds.
- Repeats the routine until the soldier is relieved of duty at the Changing of the Guard.
After each turn, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the Guard stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.
Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed—the 21-gun salute.
The mat is usually replaced twice per year: before Memorial Day and before Veterans Day. This is required because of the wear on the rubber mat by the special shoes worn by Tomb Guards. The sentinels have metal plates built into the soles and inner parts of their shoes to allow for a more rugged sole and to give the signature click of the heel during maneuvers. The sentinels wear sunglasses because of the bright reflection from the marble surrounding the Tomb and the Memorial Amphitheater.
On the cement, a rusty wear pattern can be seen that corresponds to the precise steps taken during the changing of the guard. On the carpet itself, you can also see the visible footprints worn in by standing guard.