Arlington National Cemetery Announces
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration
Yearlong Program of Events
ARLINGTON, VA—Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) announces the Department of Defense’s yearlong Tomb of the Unknown Soldier centennial commemoration.
For nearly 100 years, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (TUS) has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning. As a sacred memorial site and the grave of three unknown American service members, the Tomb connects visitors with the legacy of the U.S. armed forces throughout the nation’s history.
“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director, Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “In collaboration with other governmental and non-governmental organizations, ANC is using this centennial commemoration to explore and share with the public the history, meaning and evolution of the Tomb.”
This year, 2021, the cemetery will hold events leading up to the centennial ceremony on November 11, 2021. The public will be able to experience and participate in the commemorative events in many ways, both at the cemetery and virtually.
The official Department of Defense Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration events include:
• Inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Tomb of the Unknown Soldier exhibit at the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room (held on November 18, 2020)
• Opening of a second, complementary historical museum exhibit at the ANC Welcome Center, which explores the Tomb’s role in transforming Arlington National Cemetery (early spring 2021)
• The release of a free educational module for students and lifelong learners of all ages, titled “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” and available at education.arlingtoncemetery.mil
• Interpretive presentations, panels and other events led by Arlington National Cemetery historians and other experts (dates to be announced)
• An official commemorative publication about the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to be published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History and distributed in print and online (October 2021)
• A Naval District of Washington historical plaque dedication, naval symposium and 21-Gun Salute Ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard (November 9, 2021)
• A U.S. Army Military District of Washington Public Flower Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (November 9-10, 2021)
• A U.S. Army Military District of Washington Joint Full Honors Procession, meant to evoke elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession (November 11, 2021)
• An Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Laying Ceremony followed by the National Veterans Day Observance at ANC’s Memorial Amphitheater (November 11, 2021)
Charles “Ray” Alexander Jr., Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, said: “Our dedicated team has worked for years to prepare for the public to pay their respects at the Tomb in November 2021. This year’s events will include a ceremony during which visitors may place flowers onto the Tomb plaza. This will be the first time in many years that the public will be allowed to walk across the Tomb plaza and honor the Unknowns at their gravesite.”
As part of Arlington National Cemetery’s new Education Program, an educational module on the history and significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is available at education.arlingtoncemetery.mil.
The module is a resource for teachers, students and adult “lifelong learners.” It includes lesson plans, assignments and primary source readings for elementary, middle and high school students, as well as self-guided walking tours that can be used to explore the cemetery either virtually or in person. Lesson plans align with national and state social studies standards and can be easily adapted for homeschooling or virtual learning.
To inaugurate the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier centennial, Arlington National Cemetery hosted a ceremony on November 18, 2020 to install a time capsule in the cornerstone of Memorial Amphitheater. Intended to be opened in 2121, this time capsule contains items relevant to the year 2020, including letters from Army leaders, a COVID mask, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) report on the history of Memorial Amphitheater, 2020 coins and stamps and ANC’s employee newsletter, “Hallowed Grounds.” The new time capsule replaces the original one deposited in 1915, which cemetery staff uncovered and opened earlier this year.
In addition to the time capsule ceremony on November 18, ANC officials hosted an inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater Display Room to unveil a new exhibit that explores the evolution of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier over the last century. The Display Room exhibit, in close proximity to the Tomb, includes interpretive panels, artifacts, and historic photographs and films.
A second, complementary historical exhibit at the ANC Welcome Center will open later this year. The Welcome Center exhibit delves more deeply into how the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier transformed Arlington National Cemetery and American commemorative culture. Online versions of both exhibits are currently in development and will be available on this website and ANC's social media platforms (@arlingtonnatl).
The Arlington National Cemetery Public Affairs Office will soon release a comprehensive online toolkit for media representatives and interested members of the public. The #ANCTUS100 Resource Guide, which will be available on this website, will provide downloadable graphics, images, links to historic videos and photographs, quick facts, historical documentation and more. The Resource Guide will be updated throughout the year.
Please visit www.arlingtoncemetery.mil for the most up-to-date news and information regarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration.