This past weekend’s latest ‘snowmageddon’ blizzard, this time, affecting Washington DC, elicited a slew of photos showing the dedicated soldiers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.
The photos were made doubly interesting to me because this November at school, I listened to a speaker who explained the amount of work that must go into training the military personnel who guard the tomb. It’s incredible.
The man is called “The Tomb Guard”. His training begins with a look at the stats. First of all being the Tomb Guard is “an extremely demanding and humbling experience.” Selection for the Tomb Guard begins from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, called “The Old Guard”, which selects personnel based on “certain intangible traits, and with requirements for height and weight, physical fitness, aptitude scores, and conduct.”
Their mission: The regiment’s mission is to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades and ceremonies and special events to represent the U.S. Army, communicating its story to United States citizens and the world. (source)
If I remember correctly, though the candidate volunteers for the duty, about 97% of trainees flunk out or opt out of the rigorous cycle of training. The Tomb uniform standards are of the highest and strictest in nature, and are different than that of the Old Guard and regular Army. It takes about five hours alone just to prepare the uniform. The Tomb Guard trainee endures an extremely intense cycle.
…consisting of a series of five exhaustive tests over six to twelve months. The tests focus on outside performance (Changing of the Guard, and “Walking the Mat” 1), uniform preparation, and knowledge. Outside performance tests on weapons manual, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, and orders. Uniform preparation tests on Tomb uniform standards 2 for the Army Dress Blues, Shoes “Spits”, glasses, and brass and metals. Knowledge tests on 35 pages of information on the history of the Tomb and ANC, for which the trainee must recite verbatim – including punctuation.
The tests are progressive, demanding quantifiable improvement and demonstrated performance. If the trainee completes the training cycle and passes the tests, they will be able to flawlessly conduct seven different types of ceremonies, to meet the highest standards of uniform preparation, and recite 35 pages of information without error. (source)
And of course you have seen the photos of the Guard out in all weather.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
If you look into the requirements to become a tomb guard, it’s amazing and incredible. Seeing the dedication and commitment of the Guards, It made me think of us as Christian Soldiers.
We are soldiers you see. We are in a war, and we must display the same preparation, diligence, and vigilance as the Tomb Guards. Can we recite 35 pages of the Bible without error? The Tomb Guards dedicate themselves to a higher cause (representing our nation and protecting the actual and the symbolical Tomb) with TOTAL commitment. The thing is, their 100% focus and attention cannot be sustained in his own strength. A typical tour of duty lasts a year on average, then most step down.
However we have the Holy Spirit in us. He is eternal, He is all-power, He is all-strength. The Spirit’s 100% focus of pointing to Christ never wanes or falters. IN HIM, we can prepare. IN HIM we can maintain diligence. IN HIM we can be vigilant in protecting the deposit.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18)
On social media during the recent blizzard, there were many news outlets posting and publishing photos such as the ones above. We are all admiring of the physical AND mental posture of such men- straight as an arrow, 100% focus on the task at hand. If it is possible to apply one’s self with such resolve to a secular task in the flesh, impervious to even weather, then what are the possibilities for the Christian in the Spirit who chooses to train, guard, and maintain vigilance in the spiritual war? Endless, infinite, lavishly innumerable!
There is heavenly power available to us in the Spirit to be soldiers as the ones depicted above. We are moved by the photos showing dedication seemingly beyond human capacity. How much more moving it is, then, for new Christians, veteran Christians, and secular people, to see the power of God demonstrated in the ever-vigilant and focused soldier of God, guarding the blessedly empty tomb?
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
The tomb we guard is empty and the Occupant is alive! He is in us, empowering us to remain focused on the task at hand- proclaiming Jesus, training in righteousness, vigilantly pointing to Christ, sharing His message. The Tomb Guard’s vigilance is to promote the message of the United States which is represented in him. The Christian’s mission on this earth is the message of Jesus Christ as salvific Messiah will become known and is represented in us. We have the Holy Spirit to empower us in this eternally glorious task.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)