As we approach Memorial Day, soldiers from the Old Guard paid tribute to our nation's fallen military heroes. They have just wrapped up their "flags-in" event at Arlington National Cemetery – a tradition that started in 1948.
More than 220,000 white marble headstones line the hills of the cemetery.
“It's awe inspiring. Brings about all kinds of feelings about patriotism and respect,” says visitor Rick Jackson.
“Goosebumps. I feel goosebumps,” adds Randell Stokes.
At each grave site, an American flag is proudly posted, including inside the tomb of the unknown soldier.
“Just to honor our fallen brothers and sister who gave their life specifically for this flag,” explained Spc. Hector Rodriguez with the U.S. Army. “It’s an annual tribute – the flags, distributed and delivered by hundreds of soldiers from the old guard.
One by one, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are all paid homage with red, white, and blue. It’s an exhausting and emotional task that takes about four hours to complete.
“If you're reflecting on what you're doing as you do it, you don't really notice the heat,” says Lt. Lauren Glover with the U.S. Army.
These soldiers say they consider this task a privilege, not a job.
“It's something different,” says Lt. Glover. “A different way to celebrate Memorial Day because some of these people don't have families to come out and put a flag in front of it, so it's kind of nice to be out here with fellow soldiers and to honor those that came before us.”
Over the next few days, cemetery officials expect tens of thousands of visitors to pass through these gates to honor the service members buried here. On Monday, formal Memorial Day events get underway at 10:30 a.m. with a U.S. Navy band concert followed by the wreath-laying ceremony.