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JROTC Cadets Place Wreath At Tomb Of Unknown Soldier
by U.S. Army Sarah Windmueller
Army Cadet Command (Army ROTC)
June 24, 2024

At Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, the history of the nation exists within the sacred grounds where over 400,000 service members from all of America’s wars are buried. Over three million people visit the cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier each year to learn and pay their respects.

On June 18, 2024 ... a handful of Army JROTC cadets visiting Washington for the JROTC Leadership Bowl had the opportunity to share a little part of that history and distinction when they were chosen to tour the Sentinel’s Quarters and participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

June 18, 2024 - Four Army JROTC Cadets competing in the JROTC Leadership Bowl, selected to represent Army JROTC to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery ... salute with a Tomb Guard after they placed the wreath. Army JROTC cadets from across the nation were in Washington June 16-19, 2024 for the JROTC Leadership Bowl. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sarah Windmueller, Army ROTC.)
June 18, 2024 - Four Army JROTC Cadets competing in the JROTC Leadership Bowl, selected to represent Army JROTC to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery ... salute with a Tomb Guard Sentinel after they placed the wreath. Army JROTC cadets from across the nation were in Washington June 16-19, 2024 for the JROTC Leadership Bowl. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sarah Windmueller, Army ROTC.)

“The Tomb is for the people who lost someone, and they never got the closure of getting them back, they were never identified, so they didn’t have that opportunity to have a proper goodbye,” said Ryah Abualrob, a rising senior at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

“It’s very rewarding to be trusted with that … I don’t think I could ever forget how it felt to go up there and do that for everybody.”

The eight students, all from different schools, were chosen to be part of this unique encounter on the hallowed grounds Tomb Guards walk 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

Chance Marcum, a rising senior at Tolsia High School in Fort Gay, West Virginia, felt in awe over getting to meet the Tomb Guards and the opportunity to peek behind the scenes at their day-to-day responsibilities.

“It was very incredible, nobody ever really gets much opportunity to do that, and out of the entire nation we were one of the only schools to get that opportunity,” Marcum said.

“The fact that they have to stand out here for 12 hours a day with no breaks, that’s extremely impressive and you have to appreciate somebody with that kind of dedication and discipline,” he said. “It’ll definitely be something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

When it came time for the wreath laying ceremony, though the day was incredibly warm, the cadets kept cool under pressure.

June 18, 2024 - Four JROTC Cadets competing in the JROTC Leadership Bowl, selected to represent Army JROTC, are helped by Tomb Guard (Sentinel) Spc. Tristan Smith place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Army JROTC cadets from across the nation were in Washington June 16-19 for the JROTC Leadership Bowl. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sarah Windmueller, Army ROTC.)
June 18, 2024 - Four JROTC Cadets competing in the JROTC Leadership Bowl, selected to represent Army JROTC, are helped by Tomb Guard (Sentinel) Spc. Tristan Smith place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Army JROTC cadets from across the nation were in Washington June 16-19 for the JROTC Leadership Bowl. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sarah Windmueller, Army ROTC.)

Hundreds of people were watching as the cadets prepared to pay their respects.

“The guard told us what we needed to do, and he had us walk down the stairs with him. He had two of us in the front grab the wreath and place it. Once we got back [to the guard] we saluted and they played 'Taps' before we walked back up the stairs,” said Abualrob.

“It was very rewarding knowing that I would be representing not only our school, but JLAB as a whole, along with the others who did it with me.”

Spc. Tristan Smith is a Tomb Guard at Arlington National Cemetery who walked the JROTC cadets through this impactful experience.

Just seeing the tomb and understanding the sacrifices so many have made for their country is what he strives to help people understand every day as a Sentinel.

“It’s the most beautiful tomb in the United States, with the most outreach and the most influence – especially on today’s nation,” he said.

“I hope it’s powerful for them.”

Having only read about Washington, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in school, Abualrob reflected on her opportunity to interact with history.

“I think it’s very important for us as young people to get to experience this because I very rarely get to leave my little area of Tennessee,” said Abualrob.

“There’s not a lot of history that I’ve gotten to see, so getting to be here, it really puts it into perspective just how much history we have. I think without getting to experience that, we’ll lose it.”

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