‘The Old Guard’ will leave flags at every grave in Arlington National Cemetery this weekend
This Memorial Day, the 3rd U.S. Infantry, a military regiment also known as “The Old Guard,” will continue its revered tradition of placing an American flag at every grave in Arlington National Cemetery, where many fallen soldiers rest. in combat.
“Every headstone here in Arlington tells a story and if they could speak, the words would echo from hill to hill,” Col. Mike Binetti, chief of staff at Arlington National Cemetery, told Peter Alexander of Saturday TODAY. “There is a common thread of shared sacrifice and service that makes our nation great.”
The process of laying the flags takes about four hours and Master Sgt. Gabriel Hulse of The Old Guard has made it his mission to place as many flags as possible on the graves in Virginia Cemetery.
Using his boot, Hulse measures how far he should place the flag from the tombstone. He told TODAY the whole experience is very “humiliating” for him because “you get to look at the tombstone” and read what’s inscribed there.
“You see the name, you see the dates, you see the things they accomplished, the sacrifices they made,” he said.
As a fourth generation soldier, Hulse has family buried in the cemetery. In 1993 his grandmother was buried there two weeks after his grandfather, and in 2021 Hulse visited his grandfather’s grave for the first time since he was 8 years old.
He planted a Memorial Day flag there and became very emotional upon seeing his grandfather’s resting place.
“To be able to go out there and have this moment. It meant a lot to me,” Hulse said.
The tradition of placing flags near graves is known as “Flags In” and it has been going on for over half a century.
The cemetery has also started a new tradition, called Memorial Day Flowers, which invites civilians to lay flowers near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor the deceased.
“The Unknown Soldiers gave their lives and their identities in service to our nation,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, said in a press release. “We had such a response to the flower ceremony at the commemoration of the centenary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in November 2021 that we will once again allow our visitors to honor and respect their sacrifice by laying flowers at their graves. .”