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Flags placed at graves in Arlington National Cemetery

Flags placed at graves in Arlington National Cemetery
Flags placed at graves in Arlington National Cemetery
Posted at 10:41 AM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 06:47:09-04

ARLINGTON, VA (WJLA/CNN) - Soldiers placed U.S. flags at the graves of fallen service members as part of an annual memorial event at Arlington National Cemetery.

The soldiers call it simply "flags-in."

"I think about when they died, what rank they were, how young they were," Pfc. Monaisia Young said.

One by one, and grave by grave, the members of the Old Guard plant the flags as a way to honor and remember the dead.

This is the first time Spec. Kristen Pinnock, from Maine, has participated, and said it is a solemn experience.

"Just honoring the fallen, it's just overwhelming," Pinnock said. "I'm thinking about the families - what they had gone through, what they still go through."

Some of the 284,000 headstones are now bleached white from the ravages of nature, but all are marked with red, white and blue.

Each soldier plants the flags in silence, lost in their own thoughts while reading names.

The ceremony begins with a silent march with small flags tucked inside backpacks. It will take 1,000 soldiers four hours to complete the task.

"This is the most honorable position that I've held," Staff Sgt. Anthony Ellis said. "You just wonder who was this man, who was this woman that had the integrity and that had the self-sacrifice in them to serve."

In some small measure, it's also a way to say thanks.

"It really pulls at your heartstrings and reminds you that we'll always be there," Staff Sgt. Jason Kohne said. "We'll always honor our guys."

The "flags-in" ceremony has been held every since the Old Guard, officially named the Third Infantry, was designated as the Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948.

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