New York State Funeral Directors Association

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Veterans Day was first designated as a holiday to remember these heroes after the 1919 armistice which ended World War I.

One of the most poignant and beautiful memorials to commemorate these veterans is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The sarcophagus, which weighs 80 tons, was created from white marble quarried in Yule, Colorado, at a cost of $48,000. It bears the inscription, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." It is patrolled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by a specially trained honor guard. The Memorial was approved by Congress on March 4, 1921, when it authorized the burial of an unidentified American casualty from World War I

On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four World War I American cemeteries in France. Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who had been wounded in combat, selected the first unknown soldier from four identical caskets by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.

Just west of the original tomb are the crypts of unknown soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The original process of selecting an unknown soldier from four different caskets was repeated in 1958 for the World War II Unknown and the Korean War Unknown and once again in 1984 for the Vietnam War Unknown. Since these additional burials, the memorial is now known as "The Tomb of the Unknowns."

Subsequently, the remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed on May 14, 1998. Based on mitochrondrial DNA testing, Department of Defense scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam in 1972. His body was removed and re-interred by his surviving family. In the meantime, it has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant.

The unknown veterans buried in Arlington and elsewhere in the world have each been awarded the Medal of Honor to recognize them, who in death, remind us of the courage of so many millions of others. Let us always remember those who made the supreme sacrifice defending the freedoms we hold so dear.

(Research from http://www.army.mil/institution/organization/unitsandcommands/commandstructure/mdw)