WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Every year, a special tribute takes place in the nation’s capital to honor fallen service members for Memorial Day.
Before the sun rises, flags are placed grave by grave at Arlington National Cemetery, 12 inches from the headstone – just one boot length away. It’s part of the Flags In ceremony.
“To walk among the soldiers that have fallen, it’s an honor,” said Specialist Luis Suazo with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.
“The efforts that we make today will pale in comparison to the efforts that these heroes made laying their life on the line for us,” Captain Andrew Katz with the 3rd Infantry Regiment added.
More than 260,000 headstones stretch throughout the cemetery. Katz says each one represents an individual who meant something to someone.
“It really takes you aback and makes you realize how much these people really put on the line and sacrificed,” Suazo said.
The Flags In ceremony has been a tradition for more than five decades. Each year, it carries special meaning for those involved.
“I feel a great sense of pride,” Private Darious Boone with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment said. “You know, I just feel connected with these – knowing that they’ve been in the same shoes I’ve been in.”
“I’m just thinking about their sacrifices. And to be able to give back to them and kind of pay my respects for what they did for me,” added Staff Sergeant Robin Barnhill with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment.
The service members want the ceremony to be a reminder of that sacrifice to everyone – including those outside of the military.
“In placing these flags we ensure that the lessons learned from those who have come before us are internalized and they’re continued for the future generations,” Katz said.
They hope the gestures helps honor the legacy of the fallen on a day dedicated to their memory.
“To show that they’ll always be remembered, never forgotten,” Boone said.
“We’ll never necessarily be able to fully thank these heroes, but it’s important that we make the effort,” Katz added.