MAY 26, 2017, JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Army News Service) – Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) honored the nation’s fallen heroes Thursday ahead of Memorial Day weekend as part of a Flags-In tradition at Arlington National Cemetery.
For more than 60 years, Old Guard Soldiers have placed flags at gravesites for service members buried at the cemetery the week before the holiday weekend. Every available Soldier in The Old Guard participates and they say it’s not a task but an honor.
“We are here to serve those who came before us; this is one of the highest honors we can give back to our fallen,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Beeson, the regiment’s senior enlisted leader.
The event dates back to 1864, when the cemetery was first established. This year, more than 280,000 American flags were placed in front of headstones.
“We are doing this for the families that can’t be here today, and for those that came before us,” said Col. Jason T. Garkey, the regiment’s commander.
During the event, Garkey and other Soldiers also had an opportunity to remember loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country.
“I have a list of graves that I’m going to visit, that are friends of mine and others that people have asked me to take care of their loved ones. This is truly an honor,” he added.
Though there were many first-timers within the ranks, most Soldiers have participated in Flags-In on multiple occasions.
“This is my second year participating in Flags-In,” said Sgt. Lougene Troupe, a cable systems installer with the regiment. “The first time I did this I was anxious and nervous but this time around, I feel more joy and happiness by simply serving my country.”
Old Guard Soldiers finished placing all the flags in less than four hours. Though that’s rather quick, this time-honored tradition will never be forgotten, they said.
“Here at Arlington National Cemetery they’re not just Soldiers but America’s heroes,” said 1st Sgt. Jason R. Taylor, of Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd U.S. Inf. Regt. “Their sacrifice will not go unforgotten.”
This year, Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey also participated in the Flag’s-In tradition.
By Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes