Thousands of people took part in a solemn parade at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, along a path that had only been walked by the old guard for decades, laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown and paying tribute to the nation’s soldiers. To commemorate its centennial birthday.
This event is one of several events to commemorate the establishment of the Tomb of the Unknown 100 years ago. A commemorative parade will be held today at the main entrance of Memorial Avenue near the Welcome Center, accompanied by a military flyover; the public will be able to observe.
Some people attended the Tuesday ceremony in formal mourning clothes, while others wore shorts, sneakers and T-shirts. Due to the pandemic, some people wear masks, but many don’t. They crowded the square and steps above the monument, but they were still so quiet that a breeze could be heard blowing through the copper-colored leaves of a nearby tree.
A man knelt at the foot of the grave and made a cross sign before leaving a flower. The four men dressed in black motorcycle vests, black jeans and riding boots, saluted to the grave, and then turned and walked to the public. A woman pushed her walker across the square, and the wheels made a faint creak on the stone. An Air Force major stopped to take pictures, but was asked by the guards to move on. Some people sat on the stairs above the square and watched the team pass by. Others took pictures.
Rixie Lowden of San Clemente, who attended the funeral of his father in the cemetery in Washington the previous day, came to watch the changing of the guard and placed a bouquet of daisies, roses and carnations in front of the tomb.
“Because I am the daughter of a Marine, I am just thinking about all the fallen who came here…especially the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If that is my father, what does that mean to me? It was never discovered,” Loden said to his father Leiter. Sergeant Major James Lowden served in the US Marine Corps for 30 years, including two trips to Vietnam, before his death at the age of 75. “If we never know where he is or what happened to him, how sad it will be.”
The monument was established after the First World War to commemorate the unprecedented massacre in modern warfare. More than 100,000 Americans have lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands of French, British, Germans and others have also lost their lives. Historian John Kegan wrote that in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, more than 19,000 British soldiers were killed in one day—most of them were killed in the first 30 minutes. The war ended on November 11, 1918.
Three years later, thousands of people lined up on both sides of the streets in the area to watch a horse-drawn coffin carry the body of an unnamed American soldier across the city and across the Potomac River into the cemetery.