In recognition of November as National Veterans and Military Family Month, we’re reading Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Jeff Gottesfeld. This story reflects on those who have lost their lives in service to their country and the men and women who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Located just outside of Washington, DC, this cemetery is sacred ground and the final resting place of the Unknown Soldier.

The sentinel guards stand vigil at the tomb, ensuring that the Unknown Soldier is never alone. For the living to pay tribute to the unknown who died in service is the honor of those who serve. By remembering those who gave their lives in sacrifice for our freedom, we acknowledge the ultimate price that is paid and are reminded that our freedom is not free and comes at a cost.      

Extend Your Learning:

Use these comprehension questions with your kids or students to build their literacy skills! Print out this PDF for classroom use.

  1. What is the main idea of the story? What details let us know that this is the main idea?
  2. Why is it considered a special duty to be a sentinel guard?
  3. What season is shown in the illustration of Arlington National Cemetery on pages 3-4. How do you know?
  4. How do the mourners feel when they visit the remains of the Unknown?
  5. Why is it important for sentinel guards to guard the tomb?
  6. State your opinion: Do you think it would be a hard job to be a sentinel guard? Why or why not?

Twenty-one steps are marched across the front of the Tomb of the Unknown. Can you march twenty-one steps in a perfectly straight line? What other movements do you think could be used to pay respect to those who have lost their lives in service? What would make these movements special?

If you are one of our central Ohio neighbors, check out the book at your local branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library where the book is widely available! Then come to the NVMM and learn more about unique Veteran stories that can be found throughout American History.

WEDS-SUN 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
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$1 Admission on Jan. 16 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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