Although numerous official sources (including Army Regulation 600-8-22) refer to the monument at Arlington National Cemetery that is dedicated to members of the United States Armed Forces whose remains have not been identified as “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” its official designation per U.S. Code is the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Selected randomly from four identical caskets housed at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, on Oct. 24, 1921, the remains of the first unknown soldier were transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Upon arrival stateside, the casket lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until November 11, 1921, when it was transported to the cemetery for an interment ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding. Escorting the funeral procession was the U.S. Army’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment, the “Brave Rifles.” Until 1941, the regiment provided the Guard Detail at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Upon its reactivation in 1948, the 3rd Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Old Guard,” assumed the Tomb’s Guard Detail, an assignment it performs to this day.

Secretary of the Army Wilbur Brucker established the Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge on September 9, 1957, but it was not recognized for official wear until February 1, 1958. Only Members of the Old Guard serving in specific positions at the Tomb of the Unknowns—Commander of the Guard (platoon leader), Sergeant of the Guard, Commander of the Relief, and Sentinels—are eligible to wear the badge permanently. They also must have served at least nine months cumulatively in one of those positions and be recommended by the Commander of E Company (the Honor Guard) of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. (The Commander of the Honor Guard may also recommend the temporary wear of the badge before an eligible Soldier has met the nine-month service requirement.)

Very few soldiers have a chance to qualify for this badge, and in fact it is the second least-awarded breast insignia issued by the U.S. Army; the only one that has been awarded fewer times is the Astronaut badge.
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