Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, but take some time in between cookouts to remember our nation’s veterans, both of past wars and of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And for those of you in the Washington area, there’s no shortage of great events this weekend:
- The Rolling Thunder motorcycle run technically begins this Sunday at noon at the Pentagon’s north parking lot. But there also will be motorcycles streaming up 395 to get to the staging area for hours beforehand, and I’ve had fun watching them from the Arlington bridges that span the highway. Veterans from all over the country gather each year to ride — as loudly as possible — from the Pentagon to the National Mall, and it’s really something to see.
- PBS will broadcast a Memorial Day concert live at 8 p.m. Sunday from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The concert will be hosted by Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise and Joe Mantegna and features Colin Powell, country singer Brad Paisley, R&B singer Lionel Richie, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, the National Symphony Orchestra, and many other entertainers.
- The National Memorial Day Parade will begin Monday at 2 p.m. at 7th St. NW and Constitution Ave. Medal of Honor recipients, Marine veteran R.V. Burgin (who was depicted in the recent HBO miniseries The Pacific), and former Marine drill instructor and actor R. Lee Ermey will participate in the parade.
- Arlington National Cemetery will display the Fallen Heroes Project in Section 60, where service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, from Saturday through Monday. The project is a series of portraits of fallen service members drawn by acclaimed artist and Vietnam veteran Michael Reagan.
- The Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Ave. will have a wreathlaying ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a rock band and then a Navajo dance ceremony by the Black Creek Gourd Society. A second wreathlaying will be on Monday at 10 a.m.
- Other wreathlayings will be held Monday at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns (11 a.m.), Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1 p.m.), and the Air Force Memorial (9 a.m.).
Federal Times and Army Times Publishing Co. would like to salute all those who have served. But because nobody can better express the experiences of veterans than they can, we leave you with the closing minutes of HBO’s Band of Brothers, where the actual veterans of the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company are revealed and eloquently sum up their service. It’s hard to listen to Maj. Dick Winters’ final comment about serving in a company of heroes without getting at least a little choked up.