This Memorial Day, the 3rd U.S. Infantry, a military regiment also known as "The Old Guard," will continue their revered tradition of placing an American flag each grave at Arlington National Cemetery, where many fallen soldiers rest.
"Every single headstone here at Arlington tells a story and if they could speak, the words would echo from hillside to hillside," Col. Mike Binetti, Arlington National Cemetery Chief of Staff, told Saturday TODAY's Peter Alexander. "There is a common thread of shared sacrifice and service which is what makes our nation great."
The process of laying down the flags takes roughly four hours and Master Sgt. Gabriel Hulse from The Old Guard makes it his mission to place as many flags as he can on the graves in the Virginia cemetery.
By using his boot, Hulse measures how far he should place the flag from the headstone. He told TODAY that the whole experience is very "humbling" for him because "you get the chance to look at the headstone" and read what's inscribed there.
"You see the name, you see the dates, you see the things that they've accomplished, the sacrifices that they made," he said.
As a fourth-generation soldier, Hulse has family buried in the cemetery. In 1993, his grandmother was interred 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 flag there for Memorial Day and got very emotional when seeing his grandfather's resting place.
"Being able to go there and just have that moment. It meant a lot to me," Hulse said.
The tradition of placing flags by the graves is known as "Flags In" and it has been going on for more than half a century.
The cemetery has also started a new tradition, called Flowers of Remembrance Day, which invites civilians lay flowers down by The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay their respects to the deceased.
“The Unknown Soldiers gave their lives and their identities in service to our nation,” said Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera in a press release. "We had such an overwhelming response to the flower ceremony during the Centennial Commemoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in November 2021 that we will again allow our visitors to honor and respect their sacrifice by placing flowers at their graveside."