Memorial Day 'Flags In' event at Arlington National Cemetery honors fallen service members

This Memorial Day weekend, a tribute like no other is now underway at Arlington National Cemetery.  It is a way to honor the nation’s fallen heroes, and it’s all thanks to the work of America’s current generation of service members. 

It is a remarkable sight: Back in 1948 the 3RD U.S. Infantry was designated as the Army’s Ceremonial Unit and right up until Thursday, every available soldier in The Old Guard participates, along with members of other service branches to make the "Flags In" event at Arlington National Cemetery a reality. 

Soldiers and service members fan out across Arlington’s 639 acres and place a U.S. flag at each of 228,000 headstones, and 7,000 rows at the cemetery's Columbarium. 

"The bulk of the service members come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment The Old Guard stationed at joint base Myer-Henderson Hall and we’ve got about 20 Army soldiers who are stationed here at the cemetery, work at the cemetery and we get to participate with them and we get to go to each and every headstone and place a flag at that headstone," said Colonel Michael Binetti, Chief of Staff at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Once the flag is placed in the ground one boot length from the headstone, a salute is given and the fallen service member is honored.

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Soldiers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place U.S. flags at gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 23, 2024. This was the 76th anniversary of Flags In where over 1,500 service members placed more than 260,000 flags at every gravesite and niche column at Arlington National Cemetery. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery/released)

"Flags in gives us a little bit of extra time to pause and so Service Members can make a connection to reading that name, reading a little about that individual and just reflect on their life, their service and their sacrifice to our country," Binetti.

In addition to "Flags In" this weekend, visitors to Arlington National Cemetery will be able to pay respects for the fallen in a special way. 

On Sunday, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., visitors can place a flower at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation provides the bouquets. 

Binetti tells FOX 5, all of this work reinforces what Memorial Day is all about.

"What I like to remind families is that here at Arlington we view every day as Memorial Day, we take care of each and every grave, niche, headstone with the exact same dignity professionalism and respect," said Binetti.

The thousands of flags placed on Arlington National Cemetary Thursday before Memorial Day remain in place through Memorial Day weekend, then the entire operation is reversed Tuesday when the flags will be removed until they return next year.