An American Tradition of Remembrance

National Memorial Day Concert - MJ Boice

For the last 35 years, it’s become something of an American tradition to watch the PBS National Memorial Day Concert. I have been blessed to join a handful of other military and veteran influencers each Memorial Day weekend to represent the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and watch as some of America’s greatest talent prepare to perform on one of PBS’ highest-rated programs.

Each year, nearly a half million spectators flock to the West Lawn of the Capitol, set up their chairs, lay out their blankets, and sit shoulder to shoulder as each performance enhances their sense of patriotism. They stand silent and still with pride during the National Anthem and listen to portrayals of the heroes who gave their lives to save ours. The songs and stories heard each year leave each individual present, in-person or viewing from home, with a sense of unity we don’t often see in everyday life.

Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise are returning to host a star-studded line-up; actors, singers, songwriters, and TV personalities grace the stage in honor of our Nation’s fallen:

Bryan Cranston, Cynthia Erivo, Jena Malone, BD Wong, Patina Miller, Gary LeVox, Mary McCormack, Jamey Johnson, Ruthie Ann Miles, and (of course) Maestro Jack Everly conducting the National Symphony Orchestra.

And, as always, we are all sure to be filled with that feel-good “esprit de corps” through performances by:

The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

During the rehearsal, I got a sneak peek at what millions of Americans will see tonight, and the stories will knock your socks off!

World War II Tribute – Actor Bryan Cranston will be portraying Battle of the Bulge survivor U.S. Army Veteran John T. “Jack” Moran. Throughout the performance, you’ll hear the names of many of the people he fought beside because, as we all know, we need to always say the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Gold Star Family Remembrance – Actor BD Wong will be telling the story of Vietnam Veteran and Gold Star Father Allen Hoe, a personification that shows the military really is a “family business”. After so much loss in Vietnam, he experienced it again when his son, First Lieutenant Nainoa K. Hoe, was killed in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Honoring a Generation’s Service – Speaking of the “family business”, we’ll hear from Actress Jena Malone as she speaks about the challenges faced by a generation of wounded, ill and injured veterans who carry both visible and invisible wounds following 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Malone will portray U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and amputee Kirstie Ennis, an inspiring adaptive athlete and inspiration to so many out there struggling.

The National Memorial Day Concert airs on PBS on Sunday, May 26, 2024, from 8:00-9:30 p.m. ET, and will also live stream via Facebook and YouTube as well. And if you’re afraid you’ll miss it, don’t worry! You can always catch it on the replay until June 9.

This amazing night of remembrance is a can’t-miss opportunity for military and veteran families and our civilian counterparts. So tonight, I invite you to join NMFA and my own military family as we celebrate the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I invite you to stand next to me, either in person or in spirit, because we are stronger together.

By: MJ Boice