Each year in Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the distinguished Old Guard, honors the nation’s fallen soldiers by planting more than 228,000 American flags at each grave marker.
The Old Guard has continued this tradition annually since 1948. The “Flags-In” ceremony echoes the origins of Memorial Day traditions, when both Confederate and Union soldiers decorated the graves of their fallen compatriots after the Civil War.
TIME contributing photographer Brooks Kraft captured this year’s ceremony on Thursday. More than 1,000 soldiers participated in the ritual over a span of four hours at the sprawling Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.
I couldn’t find a video available on YouTube, so click HERE to watch the amazing Memorial Day Arlington time-lapse video.
The flags are planted a boot’s length away from the headstone, but I didn’t see how they gauge the depth, although it looks like they use the bend of their knee as a guide. Does anyone know?
A bit of Memorial Day trivia for you – how it all started:
On May 1, 1865, freed slaves gathered in Charleston, South Carolina to commemorate the death of Union soldiers and the end of the American Civil War. Three years later, General John Logan issued a special order that May 30, 1868 be observed as Decoration Day, the first Memorial Day — a day set aside “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.”