Patrick Osborn

Soldiers Guard the Tomb of Unknowns during Hurricane Sandy

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(Karin Markert/OldGuard/Facebook)

(ARLINGTON, Va.) — A picture making the rounds on the Internet Monday is reminding people of the elite soldiers who guard Arlington Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns in any kind of weather, even during Hurricane Sandy.

The fact that the picture was actually taken in September is another matter, because even as Hurricane Sandy makes its way along the Eastern seaboard, soldiers are there, guarding the tomb in the fierce wind and rain.

Tomb sentinels from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment’s “The Old Guard” have guarded the Tomb for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather, for almost 65 years.

“The Old Guard has guarded the tomb minute of every day since April 6, 1948. Today will be no exception,” said an official posting on the unit’s Facebook site.

The photo of three tomb sentinels standing at attention before the Tomb of the Unknowns in a driving rain resembling Hurricane Sandy, though it became a sensation on social media sites Monday, is actually part of a series taken on Sept. 18 by photographer Karin Markert and posted on a photo sharing site.

The photo Monday garnered universal positive comments of pride for the duty and commitment to service of those serving in the U.S. military.

The unit’s Facebook site also included pictures of the sentinels protecting the Tomb Monday during Hurricane Sandy’s heavy rains and winds.

A caption for one of the photos said Spc. Brett Hyde lives by the Sentinel’s Creed, which in part says, “Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.”

Arlington Cemetery was closed to the general public Monday, but the Old Guard continued with its normal duty of honoring the fallen at funeral services.

The sentinels execute precise steps before the tomb that is the final resting place for unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The changing of the guard at the Tomb is a popular stop for Washington tourists.

The sentinels remain at their posts rain, snow or shine, and extreme weather is not a concern.  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.

Typically, when it rains, tomb sentinels have the option of standing their watch under a green tent located to the side of the tomb where they usually remain during wreath-laying ceremonies.

According to the Society of The Old Guard’s website, tomb sentinels “are completely dedicated to their duty of guarding the tomb. Because of that dedication, the weather does not bother them. In fact, they consider it an honor to stand their watch (we call it “walking the mat”), regardless of the weather. It gets cold, it gets hot – but the sentinels never budge. And they never allow any feeling of cold or heat to be seen by anyone.”

The society is an alumni association for the more than 400 soldiers who have earned the Sentinel badge since 1958.

The website for the society said that despite their commitment, the welfare of the soldier is never put at risk: “The tomb guards have contingencies that are ready to be executed IF the weather conditions EVER place the soldiers at risk of injury or death — such as lightning, high winds, etc. This ensures that sentinels can maintain the tomb guard responsibilities while ensuring soldier safety. It is the responsibility of the chain of command from the sergeant of the guard to the regimental commander to ensure mission accomplishment and soldier welfare at all times.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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