NEW ORLEANS — Located in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is a monument for U.S. service members who have died and yet have never been identified.
It’s known as the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.
Hundreds of miles away in an insurance office in Ponchatoula sits Benton Thames, a former guard of the tomb.
He gives us an in-depth look at the tomb, what it takes to be a guard, and his time honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“They chose a random, unknown solider to dedicate as the unknown soldier that represents all of the unknown soldiers to place into this memorial,” says Thames.
He says to be a guard you have to try out, pass all of your exams, and be 5’10 or taller.
“A lot of people ask, why the height requirement? It actually kind of dates back to military tradition of presenting to the world a big army. Back in the day, it was important to have a big military. About 10 percent of those who try out to be a tomb guard actually make it through the training and get their tomb guard identification badge,” says Thames.
During the changing of the guard, a meticulous routine is learned.
“Tomb guards, we walk 21 steps at a time on the mat. Anytime you see them stop and pause, they are counting 21 seconds in their head,” says Thames.
Whether sunshine or snow, sometimes the guards are on a 24 hour rotating shift.
It’s all to honor those who have fought for our country.
“The unknown soldiers, when you think about it, they gave the ultimate sacrifice. Not only did they give there lives, but they also gave their identities. What more can you ask for someone than to give your life and your identity? It really is the ultimate sacrifice,” says Thames.