Unknown Soldier Known But to God

Unknown Soldier

On this day in 1921, in the city hall of Chalons-sur-Marne in France, decorated U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger selects the first “Unknown Soldier.”

Sergeant Younger had been wounded in combat, and was a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Earlier that year, on March 4, Congress approved the burial of an “unknown” American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater.

So, four bodies were transported to Chalons-sur-Marne, one each from four cemeteries of great World War I battlegrounds. The service records stated “the four bodies selected represented the remains of soldiers of which there was absolutely no indication as to name, rank, organization or date of death.”

Then, on the morning of October 24, Sergeant Younger entered the city hall where the four caskets were displayed, each draped with the American flag. He carried a spray of white roses with which to select the chosen casket. Here is what he did next, in his own words: “I walked around the coffins three times, then suddenly I stopped. What caused me to stop, I don’t know, it was as though something had pulled me. I placed the roses on the coffin in front of me. I can still remember the awed feeling that I had, standing there alone.”


Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket was brought to the United States, where the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The tomb sarcophagus we all recognize was placed above the grave of this Unknown Soldier from World War I. Its western panel is inscribed with these words:


Unknown Soldier Known But to God

JFK eternal flame

On this day in 1967, the body of President John F. Kennedy is moved to a permanent resting site at Arlington National Cemetery, just a few feet from the original site.

Kennedy had been assassinated more than three years earlier, on November 22, 1963.

Here are the closing words from the luncheon speech he never gave that day:

“We in this country, in this generation are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, “Except the Lord Keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”


JFK was a World War II veteran so he qualified for a plot at Arlington National Cemetery. Reportedly, the spring before he died he remarked to a friend that the view of the Potomac from the Custis-Lee Mansion at Arlington was “so magnificent I could stay forever.”

Symbolically, the eternal flame marking his final resting place is fueled by a natural gas line. A continuous electronic flashing spark reignites the flame if it is extinguished by rain or wind.

May the flame lit by our shared faith, founding, and freedom never die out!

John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame