By Alex McVeighMay 28, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 28, 2010) -- Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) were joined by ceremonial units from around the military May 27 to perform "Flags In," their annual Memorial Day tradition at Arlington National Cemetery.
Ever since Memorial Day 1948 -- the same year The Old Guard was designated the Army's official ceremonial unit -- The Old Guard has been at ANC to place almost 300,000 American flags at the base of every grave in the cemetery.
Though Flags In is primarily The Old Guard's responsibility, they were assisted by the U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard. The first flag was laid just after 2 p.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
For most Old Guard Soldiers, Flags In is a chance to remember and pay tribute to generations of servicemembers who came before.
"It's a great honor to be out here doing something a lot of Soldiers don't get a chance to do," said Spc. Adam Derickson, who was assigned to The Old Guard in January. "I requested to be on this assignment, and I've been looking forward to it since I got here. I wanted to be able to remember the ones who came before us, because we wouldn't be here without them."
While it was Derickson's first time, the day is no less significant for Soldiers who have participated in the event for several years.
"Every year it's the same feeling, very gratifying to be here," said Spc. Chad Welch, of Hotel Company. "We try to do the best we can to pay tribute, and I know my fellow Soldiers and I look forward to this every year."
No one who rests in ANC was forgotten, as the Soldiers also took time to lay a flag in front of each column at the Columbarium, which houses cremated remains.
Even with several hundred servicemembers participating, it still takes almost three hours for them to canvas the cemetery's 612 acres.
The lines of Soldiers marching with their backpacks filled with flags also made an impression on tourists who were making their way through the cemetery.
"It's quite a sight, to see them marching along like that, and making sure each stone has a flag in front of them," said Leon Savart, who was visiting from West Des Moines, Iowa. "I figured they were just going to do a section or something, but to think of every single grave here having a flag, that's quite a tribute to our armed forces."
The flags will remain in the cemetery throughout the Memorial Day weekend, and Soldiers from The Old Guard will remain on guard through the weekend as well.
(Alex McVeigh writes for the Pentagram at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall)