Arlington National Cemetery is opening up the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza Tuesday and Wednesday to members of the public and allowing visitors to lay flowers for the first time in almost a century.
The historic invitation is honoring the anniversary of the tomb's original burial 100 years ago.
Entry to the plaza is typically reserved for members of "The Old Guard," sentinels in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment who stand watch constantly at the Arlington National Cemetery landmark, officials say.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration began Tuesday with an opening ceremony that recreates a ceremony from Nov. 9 and 10, 1921, around the original burial, officials said.
Harry Rock Above, a descendant of Crow Nation Chief Plenty Coups who attended the original burial, spoke at the opening ceremony, which coincides with National Native American Heritage Month.
Representatives from the Crow Nation, dressed in brightly colored traditional clothing, were the first to place flowers near the tomb.
A steady line of people, including children and military members and scouts in uniform, solemnly paid respects. They paused at the top of the hour when the Old Guard carried out abbreviated changing of the guard ceremonies.
The memorial will be open to the public on Tuesday, Nov. 9 and Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Attendees must register for the free event, bring a government-issued form of identification and are asked to bring their own single-stem flowers. Complimentary roses, gerbera daisies and sunflowers will be available. Go here for more information.
Historians will be at the memorial to answer questions.
“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, the executive director of Army Cemeteries, said in a statement. “The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning.”
The event leads up to a procession and flyover planned on Thursday, which is Veterans Day, and marks the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It's meant to replicate elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession.
Other events leading up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration can be found here.