A photo from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers went viral this weekend, showing U.S. Army soldiers continuing to stand guard even as the east coast blizzard raged on around them.
The photos came from Arlington National Cemetery, which is close to the epicenter of the blizzard that bore down on the region this weekend. The small groups of soldiers tasked with guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns stood by diligently even as snow piled up around them — and even on them.
The Tomb Sentinels, as they are officially known, stand guard at the tomb for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, regardless of weather. The soldiers, who come from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment’s “The Old Guard,” have become famous and are one of the most popular sights for tourists who visit Arlington National Cemetery.
ABC News explained the job.
“The Tomb Sentinels are a familiar sight to most tourists who visit Arlington National Cemetery. Dressed in their dress blue uniforms, they ‘walk the mat’ on the plaza in front of the white marble sarcophagus that lies above the remains of an unknown soldier from World War I. Unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War are buried in crypts in front of the sarcophagus.”
While the rest of the region braced for one of the worst snowstorms of recorded history, the soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns were “looking forward to this and kind of excited about it,” Major Russell Fox, a spokesman for the Army’s Old Guard, told ABC News.
“These guys will be out in the snow, no matter what,” Fox said. “They love what they’re doing and they’re dedicated.”
The picture of soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers during the east coast blizzard was quite popular as well. They were first shared on Facebook by the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and were a huge hit, with close to 20,000 shares and 23,000 likes.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers photos ended up being some of the most iconic images from what was a historic storm. As The Weather Channel noted, it was the biggest storm ever seen in many areas, and Washington, D.C. was at the heart of it all.
“Snow totals have topped 30 inches in at least four states as Winter Storm Jonas continues to hammer parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions with near-blizzard conditions, record coastal flooding, and winds over 70 mph in some coastal areas. Snowfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour have been observed from the Washington, D.C. area to New York City. The combination of strong winds and heavy snow will continue to create life-threatening whiteout conditions for anyone attempting to travel on Saturday.”
This is not the first time that photos of soldiers braving terrible weather at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers have gone viral. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, a picture of soldiers guarding the tomb also made the rounds, showing the soldiers standing through the driving rain and wind.
Only this one wasn’t so accurate. The photo was actually taken during another storm the previous month, but to many, it still represented the dedication that the soldiers show.
“They remain at their posts rain, snow or shine and extreme weather is not a concern,” an ABC News report noted at the time. “They remained at their posts during Hurricanes Isabel and Irene as well as the 2010 blizzard, nicknamed ‘Snowmaggedon,’ that shut down the capital for days.”
The viral photo showing the U.S. Army soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers during the 2016 east coast blizzard is actually the closest anyone will get to actually seeing the tomb during the storm itself. Arlington National Cemetery closed at noon on Friday as the storm approached and remained closed over the weekend. But despite the crippling blizzard, the soldiers were scheduled to continue their 24-hour shifts standing guard over the tomb.
[U.S. Army photos by Cpl. Cody W. Torkelson]