Veterans

May 29, 2013

‘Old Guard’ soldiers honor fallen with flags at Arlington graves

army-arlington1
A sea of tiny American flags flutters gently in the breeze now at Arlington National Cemetery. The flags were placed at gravesites, May 23, in tribute to the service and sacrifice of the nation’s fallen service members who rest there.

In advance of Memorial Day, soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) carefully placed the flags by hand, one by one, in front of each of the gravestones at the cemetery.

“I think every soldier you will talk to, especially the Old Guard alumni, [say] that for them, Flags In is one of the most meaningful things that Old Guard Soldiers get to take a part in,” said Maj. John Miller, spokesman for the Old Guard. “It’s just overwhelming that you can go out and be amongst all these warriors that have gone before you and you can honor their legacy by just a single token of putting a flag at their gravesite and giving them a hand salute.”

The Flags In event is an old tradition at the cemetery, Miller said.

“Flags In is a tradition that the Old Guard has carried on now for over 40 years – though nobody has an exact date,” he said.

army-arlington5

The tradition actually dates back much further even – there was a break in the tradition for a while. But it was revived by the Old Guard after World War II.

“It dates back to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868, whenever they began the holiday inside Arlington by honoring all the Union Soldiers that had fallen during the Civil War,” Miller said. “They began placing flags on tombstones for Memorial Day.”

About 1,200 Old Guard soldiers participated in the event this year, and about 220,000 graves received a flag, as did memorial markers and rows of urns at the cemetery’s columbarium. Miller said the Soldiers were able to accomplish the task in about four hours – beginning after the last full-honors funeral ended at the cemetery. That means, for the graves alone, a Soldier placed a flag every 80 seconds.

The major said that soldiers do a row of gravestones by putting their toe against the center of the stone, and then placing the flag at their heel. In that way, every row has the flags placed equidistant from the stone, giving a uniform appearance. Uniformity and perfection is something that the Old Guard prides itself on, Miller said.

army-arlington8

“The Old Guard soldiers are the last thing that a family sees as they bury their loved one from the Army,” he said. “And that’s what we try to give every service member’s family. Their final vision of the Army is one of perfection and professionalism, and that is how we try to honor the fallen service members in the cemetery every year as well.”

While each grave marker at the cemetery received a flag, so too did the service members interred at the Tomb of the Unknowns. There, members of the public stood at quiet attention as Tomb Sentinels placed flags at the graves of each of the four unknown service members within the tomb. Additionally, about 13,500 flags were placed at the Soldier’s and Airmen’s Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

VA expands disability benefits for AF personnel exposed to contaminated aircraft

The Department of Veterans Affairs June 18 published a new regulation that expands eligibility for some benefits for a select group of Air Force veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft that had been used in Vietnam as part...
 
 

Soldier missing from World War II accounted for

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Feb. 16 that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing since World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.  U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John W. Herb of Cleveland, Ohio, was buried June 18, in...
 
 

VA campaign encourages public to help raise PTSD awareness

As the country recognizes Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month, the VA National Center for PTSD is inviting the public to participate in its “PTSD Awareness: June 2015” campaign, which began June 1. This year’s goal is to help more veterans, their families, caregivers and community members understand what PTSD is and know that there are...
 

 
Army photograph by SSgt. Opal Vaughn

U.S. paratroopers, WWII veterans pay homage to D-Day 71st anniversary

Army photograph by SSgt. Opal Vaughn U.S. Army veterans Cpl. George Shenkle, center right, of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and Sgt. Isaac Phillips, center left, of the 4th Infantry Division, sa...
 
 

VA launches community-based employment service for homeless veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced June 10 a new employment program aimed at helping job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness, and those on the brink of homelessness, gain stable and long-term employment. The new program, Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services, relies on Community Employment Coordinators who know their communities and can work with local employers to...
 
 

Arlington denies burial of guardsman killed in chopper crash

Arlington National Cemetery says a Louisiana National Guardsman who was killed in a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico can’t be buried at the hallowed grounds because he was killed during a training exercise. The burial plots are only for service members who die on active duty and space is limited, the cemetery says....
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>