WASHINGTON -- In a moving ceremony Sunday, May 24, the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus of The United States Army Field Band was among a long list of dignitaries and Hollywood big-hitters who performed at the 2009 National Memorial Day Concert held on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

The concert, now in its 20th year as the NationAca,!a,,cs memorial service, provided an audience of millions, both live and televised, a way to unite, reflect and honor the service and sacrifices of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

Aca,!A"Being able to perform at the concert was a tremendous opportunity for us. It was an honor and a privilege. It was our chance to say thank you to those who have served, those who are serving and to all of their friends and families,Aca,!A? proclaimed Cpt. Leonel PeAfA+-a, conductor of the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus.

This yearAca,!a,,cs program, co-hosted by Academy Award-winner Gary Sinise and Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna, both of whom are dedicated to supporting veterans and active duty troops, included such notables as retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, Laurence Fishburne, former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee, country music star Trace Adkins, as well as Denyce Graves, maestro Erich Kunzel and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Performances included inspirational musical numbers, documentaries and powerful readings. And, it must be said that celebrity support is a powerful catalystAca,!"helping to increase the awareness and support of servicemembers.

When asked [in an interview with the Public Broadcasting Service] what suggestions he had for how Americans not directly impacted by the war could support those who have, Mantegna said, Aca,!A"Memorial Day, and what we do in honoring the military, shouldn't be restricted or confined to those who made the ultimate sacrifice Aca,!A| there are a lot of people up there who, you know, they're still alive but they've certainly given up a major portion of the quality of their lives for now and forever for the sacrifice that they madeAca,!"those that are living now, some of them permanently, in military hospitals and veteran hospitals.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"This is very important for us as a nation to be aware of that and to be involved in that and to make sure that the best possible care and attention is given to that,Aca,!A? he said.

Aca,!A"The crowd went nuts when certain celebrities first appeared,Aca,!A? noted Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Garcia, alto with the SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus. Aca,!A"But,Aca,!A? Garcia added, Aca,!A"we are here because of who has walked in our shoes before usAca,!"those who have served in the armed forces to provide us with the freedoms we, as Americans, have become so accustomed to, that we often take for granted.Aca,!A?

ItAca,!a,,cs true. The meaning, the message of Memorial Day is often lost.

For many, Memorial Day has become a day free from the daily grind. For many, it has become a day to host barbecues and spend the day outdoors. For many, simply put, it has become of day of rest and relaxation.

SoldiersAca,!a,,c Chorus noncommissioned officer in charge and tenor with the group, Sgt. Maj. Joel Dulyea, passionately shared, citing words from [Abraham] LincolnAca,!a,,cs Gettysburg address, Aca,!A"Servicemembers fight knowing that they may be called upon to give the Aca,!Eoelast full measure of devotion.Aca,!a,,c These words still ring true today.Aca,!A?

DulyeaAca,!a,,cs remarks were befitting as the concert included a special tribute to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, particularly his outreach contributions.

Lincoln, who believed we are Aca,!A"to bind up the nationAca,!a,,cs wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan."

The concert also highlighted family members of disabled veterans, paying homage to the thousands currently sacrificing, suffering and loving those veterans severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Sammy Marshall, pianist with the chorus, poignantly expressed, Aca,!A"This is one day, just one day out of the year, when we can stop, take pause, and truly think about what it means to serve Aca,!A| not only as an active-duty Soldier but as a veteran, as a friend, as a husband, wife, brother, sister, mom, dad, grandparent Aca,!A| truly, when you think about it, we all serve.Aca,!A?

To learn more about The United States Army Field Band, visit our website at www.armyfieldband.com.