"This was a wonderful presentation! While we all want to listen to the music and celebrate happy times, it's necessary to hear the letters, the reminiscences and the horror stories of war. My heart goes out to all the disabled veterans as well as to those who have lost loved ones."
The 2008 “National Memorial Day Concert”
There were three special tributes on the 2008 show. The first highlighted the World War II, Korea and Vietnam war memorials in the Nation’s Capital. Veterans of WWII were honored, and in particular, actor Charles Durning, a highly decorated World War II veteran and 14-year “National Memorial Day Concert” participant was recognized for his bravery and sacrifice as part of the “Greatest Generation.” And the valor of the newest veterans was recognized as the program examined the lasting bonds that buddies form on the battlefields of Iraq.
The program was co-hosted for the third year by Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise (“CSI: New York”) and Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”), two acclaimed actors who have dedicated themselves to veterans’ causes and to supporting troops in active service. The rest of the cast included multiple Grammy Award-winning Motown legend Gladys Knight; classical crossover soprano and star of the stage Sarah Brightman; General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Best Actress Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel (“Wicked,” “Rent”); actor and comedian Denis Leary (“Rescue Me”); distinguished actor Charles Durning; country music star Rodney Atkins; actor and singer John Schneider; actress Gail O’Grady (“American Dreams,” “Boston Legal”); film and television actress Caitlin Wachs; and violin virtuoso Robert McDuffie in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Erich Kunzel, recipient of the 2006 National Medal of Arts. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff also participated in the event along with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, The Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The Master Chorale of Washington, an Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Flags from each branch of the armed services provided by the Military District of Washington, DC.
Sacred War Memorials The 2008 concert commemorated three war memorials in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC – the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and, most recently, the World War II Memorial, as well as Arlington National Cemetery, which has effectively become a war memorial for those who are recently fallen and whose specific memorial has not yet been created. In particular, we honored the 25th Anniversary of the Vietnam wall, the most prominent icon of the Vietnam War, where Vietnam vets who lost buddies, as well as families who lost loved ones come to touch the names of the fallen and leave letters and offerings of honor and love. General Colin L. Powell (Ret.) spoke to the experience of Vietnam veterans returning from an unpopular war and offered thanks for their courage and dedication.
The Greatest Generation The 2008 concert recognized the immense contributions of World War II veterans and, in particular, honored the distinguished actor, highly decorated WWII veteran and 14-year “National Memorial Day Concert” participant Charles Durning for his bravery and sacrifice as part of the “Greatest Generation.”
Chris Pfeifer in Afghanistan
Bonds of Battle
The 2008 show highlighted the powerful bonds forged by buddies on the battlefield and paid tribute to the support and sacrifices of their families. Acclaimed actors Gary Sinise, Dennis Leary, Gail O’Grady and Caitlin Wachs shared the story of Sergeant John Faulkenberry and PFC Chris Pfeifer and their wives, Sarah and Karen, who became friends during their training in Germany. In the course of a fierce firefight following an ambush, John was wounded and Chris helped him to survive. Three weeks later, Chris was hit by a sniper and brought back to the states, where his wife Karen was about to give birth to their first child. Though critically wounded himself, John asked his wife Sarah to go to the Pfeifers’ aid. Not long after, Chris became one of America’s fallen heroes. Sarah Faulkenbery was with Karen during baby Payton’s birth. Now the Faulkenberrys are helping Chris’s wife and new baby survive, providing them a home and emotional support.