Arlington Cemetery Has A Surprising New Guardian & It’s For The Birds

The 3rd Infantry has a new recruit helping them honor and guard America’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” the 3rd Infantry Regiment is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving since 1784. The regiment given its name by General Winfield Scott is the president’s escort, and the official ceremonial unit, and provides security for Washington DC. 

The regiment also serves at Arlington National Cemetery conducting more than 6,000 ceremonies a year and guards the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. 

Infantrymen assigned to the cemetery have a new recruit helping them guard the tomb and carry out their duties. 

This is no fall small feet, not just anyone can become a Sentinel at the Tomb. Along with a strict appearance requirement, soldiers must pass a series of rigorous tests:

Would-be Tomb Guards must first undergo an interview and a two-week trial. During the trial phase, they memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a “walk.” 

If a soldier passes the first training phase, “new soldier” training begins. New Sentinels learn the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans. They learn the guard-change ceremony, the manual of arms, and methods for keeping their uniforms and weapons in immaculate condition.

The Sentinels must pass multiple tests to earn the privilege of wearing the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge. First, they are tested on their manual of arms knowledge, uniform preparation and walks. Then, they take the badge test, consisting of 100 randomly selected questions from the 300 items memorized during training. The would-be badge holder must get more than 95 percent correct.

The National Cemetery has reported their new recruit is a wild female turkey who is taking part in funeral processions and helping Sentinels keep watch at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. 

It’s sort of fitting that a turkey would be honoring our veterans. There is a story that is a myth that Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey. It came from a letter written by Franklin to his daughter complaining that the original eagle symbol for the Great Seal looks more like a turkey. 

The “Bald Eagle…is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself,” Franklin wrote. 

The turkey is “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.”

Franklin did defend the turkey but he did not officially propose it become a symbol of our nation. 



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