LIANE HANSEN, Host:
NPR's Jenny Gold has this story.
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JENNY GOLD: Unidentified Man #1: The ceremony that you are about to witness is the changing of the guard. In keeping with the dignity of this ceremony, it is requested that everyone remains silent and standing.
GOLD: The silence of the ceremony is broken only by the snap of a tourist's camera, by the crisp measured steps of the guards. They stand watch over the final resting place of three unknown casualties - World War I, World War II, Korea.
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GOLD: But look closely, two thin cracks circled the massive marble block. They run right between the words: American and soldier. The cracks are nothing new. They don't endanger the tomb or the honored remains of the men inside, but to superintendent John Metzler tare a blot on an otherwise perfect memorial.
JOHN METZLER: The tomb itself has cracks on all four sides. The cracks continue to grow. Repairing the cracks do not stop the cracks. It is only a temporary fix.
GOLD: Metzler has been in Arlington on and off since 1951 when his father was superintendent. He wants to replace the whole thing. He feels it's a matter of keeping Arlington flawless for the 4 million people who come here each year.
METZLER: I have dedicated my entire life to national cemeteries, and I have spent 17 years here at Arlington Cemetery, and I want to do everything I can to maintain this facility in the very best condition it can be in.
GOLD: There's even a replacement block of marble ready and waiting in Colorado, cut from the same quarry as the original, but the replacement process has stalled. The National Trust for Historic Preservation does not want the stone replaced.
BOB LAFORTUNE: The tomb is a monument, but it's a sacred monument. It actually marks the spot of three people who have given their life.
GOLD: So is it sort of, like, neither was, you know, a crack in the Lincoln Memorial or the crack in the Liberty Bell.
LAFORTUNE: Unidentified Man #2: Hats on your order. Halt and order.
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GOLD: The sentinels watch over the tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year even when there are no tourists there to see it. For LaFortune, the best way to honor the men inside is to make sure the tomb remains unchanged.
LAFORTUNE: You really do develop a personal connection, wondering about them, wondering what they are like, what their hopes were, and even say I have, you know - you find yourself talking to them and just like you would, I think, when you visit a family member's grave or a friend's grave.
GOLD: Jenny Gold, NPR News.
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