Four million people visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier each year in Washington, D.C.
Since 1926, it has been protected by the Tomb Guards. Among this elite group is an Oklahoman.
“It's really a lifetime opportunity to do something like this,” said Josh Wesnidge, a former Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
When Wesnidge joined the military, he never dreamed he would be handpicked for a chance to become a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His training class was highlighted in the documentary "The Unknowns."
“It really gives an unseen look at what it's like to be a tomb guard and what it takes to become one,” he said.
During their training, their knowledge of the cemetery is paramount.
“You have 17 pages of knowledge you have to memorize verbatim that includes commas, periods quotation marks down to the T,” he said.
Their routines are meticulous and their uniforms are flawless.
“If anything on our uniform such as medals collar breasts is 164 of an inch off, it's wrong,” he recalls. “We actually spend about eight hours a day shining our shoes.”
Out of a dozen soldiers in his training class, only three made it.
“You can't show that you're nervous even though you may be shaking inside or something like that. You have to portray confidence in your abilities,” Wesnidge said.
They stand guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; rain or shine. Walking the mat and performing the symbolic changing of the guard before millions of visitors, the president at least twice a year and other dignities. However, protecting the sacred shrine dedicated to service members who died without their remains being identified is their primary mission.
“We do it for them,” he said. “They literally gave everything they had for us including their names so that's the least we can do for them to be able to give them the respect that they deserve.”
Wesnidge stood guard for two and a half years. He’s in Oklahoma this week for a screening of the documentary this Thursday at the Regal Spotlight Stadium 14 in Norman. About 130 tickets are still available.