By Staff Sgt. Terrance D. RhodesMay 26, 2017
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Army News Service) -- Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) honored the nation's deceased heroes Thursday ahead of Memorial Day weekend, as part of the Flags-In tradition at Arlington National Cemetery.
For more than 60 years, Old Guard Soldiers have placed flags at each cemetery gravesite the week before the holiday weekend. Every available Soldier in The Old Guard participates, and they reiterate that it's an honor, not just a task.
"We are here to serve those who came before us; this is one of the highest honors we can give back to our fallen," said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Beeson, the regiment's senior enlisted leader.
The event dates back to 1864, when the cemetery was first established. The regiment placed more than 280,000 American flags in front of headstones this year.
"We are doing this for the families that can't be here today, and for those that came before us," said Col. Jason T. Garkey, the regiment's commander.
During the event, Garkey and other Soldiers also had an opportunity to remember loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country.
"I have a list of graves that I'm going to visit, that are friends of mine and others that people have asked me to take care of their loved ones. This is truly an honor," he added.
Most of the Old Guard Soldiers have participated in Flags-In before, although there were many first-timers in the ranks this year.
"This is my second year participating in Flags-In," said Sgt. Lougene Troupe, a cable systems installer with the regiment. "The first time I did this I was anxious and nervous but this time around, I feel more joy and happiness by simply serving my country."
This year, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey also participated in the Flag's-In tradition.
The Old Guard finished placing all the flags in less than four hours. The Soldiers' efficiency, however, doesn't take away from the sense of dignity and respect with which they approach this hallowed task.
"Here at Arlington National Cemetery they're not just Soldiers but America's heroes," said 1st Sgt. Jason R. Taylor, of Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd U.S. Inf. Regt. "Their sacrifice will not go unforgotten."