Unknown Soldiers and Empty Tombs


The most venerated tomb in Arlington National Cemetery is marked with the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” The ceremony for the burial, with highest military honors, took place on November 11, 1921. It was exactly three years after the Armistice agreement that ended World War I, then called “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, there would be others. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill that would also pay tribute to the unknown fallen soldiers of World War II and the Korean War. The remains of these “unknowns” were also laid to rest at Arlington.

In 1984, the remains of an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War were interred in the same hallowed soil at Arlington, with President Ronald Reagan receiving the American flag as next of kin. But in 1988, the remains of the Vietnam unknown were exhumed and scientists were able to identify the soldier as 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie, killed in combat in 1972. Today his tomb at Arlington National Cemetery remains empty.

This November 11, we honor all the veterans who have served the United States of America with courage, selflessness and boundless generosity. Some of them have fallen in battle and rest in peace; others live on, serving our nation still or perhaps working quietly among us. This Veterans Day a grateful nation remembers those known to God and to us, and another empty tomb reminds us all that, one day, war will be no more.