Arlington Cemetery Gets Prepped For Memorial Day | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Arlington Cemetery Gets Prepped For Memorial Day

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A member of the 3rd Infantry Division places flags on markers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Armando Trull
A member of the 3rd Infantry Division places flags on markers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The U.S. Army's ceremonial unit have been marking Memorial Day with a solemn ritual. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as the "old guard," is carrying on with a tradition that dates back to 1948 — the flags-in ceremony. Every available old guard soldier will place a small American flag on the grave markers at Arlington National Ceremony.

Scores of these men and women, uniformed in their green battle fatigues march into Arlington Cemetery, section 60. They carry dozens of flags in their backpacks. Approaching each marker, they solemnly place the flag exactly one foot in front and in the center of the headstone. The soldier then moves away. There are family members there as well, they look on with gratitude.

The solemn ritual to honor the men and women who answered their nation's call, will be repeated more than 220,000 times, at each and every marker in Arlington. From the first union soldiers buried at the site in 1864 to the more recent markers, where Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers were laid to rest.

The flags will also be placed at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Jennifer Lynch is with Arlington National Cemetery. She says that, for the second year in a row, flower-growers from Ecuador and California have donated 50,000 roses, which will be handed out to visitors.

"It's a way to honor those that have paid the sacrifice, and it's also a way to remember," said Lynch. "So you take one, you place it on the grave, and you take one home with you."

Lynch says temperatures over the weekend are expected to be in the 90s. Visitors should bring clear plastic bottles, so they can fill them with water from the drinking fountain at the cemetery.

Visitors who wish to attend the official ceremony will need to undergo security screening before being allowed to enter the amphitheater.

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