Over 1,000 service members were out at sunrise at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday for the annual “Flags In” to honor the nation’s fallen military heroes ahead of Memorial Day.
American flags were placed at approximately 260,000 headstones as members from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment and other ceremonial guard units were present, according to the Arlington National Cemetery.
“It’s the very least that we can do for these hundreds of thousands of service members that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Staff Sgt. Colin Clancy.
The 3rd U.S. Infantry, traditionally known as “The Old Guard” has placed flags at gravesites in honor of fallen service members since 1948. The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty Army infantry unit, serving since 1784. Members of The Old Guard also serve as sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Traditionally, flags are placed into the ground, one boot length from the headstone’s base.
Arlington National Cemetery spans 639 acres next to the Pentagon, across the Potomac River, overlooking Washington, D.C. More than 400,000 veterans and their eligible dependents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery including service members from every major military conflict since the Revolutionary War.
The iconic white marble headstones that encompass the cemetery are provided by the U.S. government and generally contain the deceased’s name, rank, and branch of service. Other information may include combat service, military honors and an emblem of religious belief.
While Memorial Day weekend for many is a long weekend with cookouts and the unofficial start of summer, Staff Sgt. Robin Barnhill stressed the importance of the flags-in ceremony and the need to commemorate service members who gave their lives for the United States.
“It’s not something that’s just given. It was earned. Everyone out here, buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, it’s because of them. So don’t forget the true meaning behind it,” Barnhill said.
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