Tomb Guard's often receive questions on shining their shoes, as well as why they are built with the very thick soles? Is it to keep the heat and cold from their feet?
according to TombGuard.org "The shoes are standard issue military dress shoes. They are built up so the sole and heel are equal in height. This allows the Sentinel to stand with a straight back and perpendicular to the ground. A side effect of this is that the Sentinel can "roll" on the outside of the build up walking down the mat. Done correctly, the hat and bayonet will appear to not "bob" up and down with each step. It gives a more formal, fluid and smooth look to the walk, rather than a "marching" appearance."
The soles have a steel tip on the toe and a "horseshoe" steel plate on the heel. This prevents wear on the sole and allows the Sentinel to move smoothly during his movements when he turns to face the Tomb and then back down the mat.
Then there is the "clicker". It is a shank of steel attached to the inside of the face of the heel build-up on each shoe. It allows the Sentinel to heel click during certain movements. A guard change is considered great when all the heel clicks fall together and sound as one click. The guard change is occasionally done in the "silent" mode (as a sign of devotion to the Unknowns) with no voice commands - every thing is done in relation to the heel clicks and on specific counts."
When the Soldiers get their shoes first issued they are just plain leather shoes, with a built up sole like the pair on the right side of this picture. Their 1st task is to bring them to the cobblers and they will sand down the built up soles that it is a smoother surface for the Tomb Guard to shine.
2nd task, the Soldier will use a whole bottle of black leather dye on the shoes to dye the leather completely black, this will prevent any brown leather ever being exposed by a gash from the heal plates. 3rdly, they will start sanding the whole shoe with sandpaper so fine it feels like paper, 1600 grit is a nice texture. The leather dye and sanding process will take a few days of work.
The 4th task is to start shining the shoes with shoe polish, there are a million different techniques and methods and it sometimes takes months for a tomb guard to find the best method that works for them.
Some order shoe polish from around the world to obtain the shine they wish too have on their shoes.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment made this little video to demonstrate the shoe shining process.
Lastly, the Tomb Guard will paint the metal pieces black with Honor Guard Edge Dressing paint.
When they are all done, they store their shoes in shoe boxes and usually won't let anyone touch or handle them at all.
Thanks for reading! If you have a question you'd like to ask a Tomb Guard, or a story you'd like to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in a future blog post.
Please check out our new documentary film 'The Unknowns' - www.theunknownsmovie.com - to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to be a Tomb Guard, and learn some of the history behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Ethan Morse, Badge #548
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (2005-2006)