2009 is a special year for the “National Memorial Day Concert”, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the broadcast - two decades of gathering together - in what has become a memorial service for our entire nation.
We've been privileged over the last 20 years to welcome so many talented artists who have dedicated themselves to creating a moving remembrance and tribute to all our service members. Together with our audience, we have become a real community of support for our troops, reaching out to soldiers and veterans and their families to let them know we care.
Some notable moments include:
Each year viewers send thousands of letters and e-mails in honor of loved ones and friends who have been wounded or died in one of America’s conflicts. These are delivered to the appropriate memorial in ceremonies.
Co-hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise and previous hosts Ossie Davis and E.G. Marshall all had personal connections to veterans’ causes and to supporting troops in active service and Ossie Davis served in WWII from 1942–1945.
"For me, hosting the “National Memorial Day Concert” is a spiritual exercise. The value lies in the reminder of what wars are and what they cost in human terms. We appreciate our heritage a little bit more when we start to consider what it means and what people have paid for it."
The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Joint Chiefs of Staff have been a part of every Concert, offering support and perspective to the challenges the veterans face.
Year after year, distinguished veterans General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.) and Charles Durning have participated in the concert, offering their experiences and perspectives to honor wounded and fallen soldiers and their families.
Veterans share their own moving stories with us in an attempt to help the country better understand their motivation and sacrifices and the realities they face.
The community on-site at the Capitol - including partner organizations, event staff, production staff and crew - dedicate themselves to the cause as well, working to ensure the best possible experience for honorees, performers, audience members and viewers at home. Some of the production staff, veterans of years of network television series and specials, call the Concert "the most meaningful" production they do all year long.
Since 1989, the producers of the multi award-winning event have been privileged to welcome acclaimed stars from the stage, screen and music worlds - from Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Jimmy Smits, Richard Dreyfuss, Kathy Bates and Natalie Cole to Gladys Knight, B.B. King, Martina McBride, Vanessa Williams, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, Maestro Erich Kunzel and the virtuosic National Symphony Orchestra to mention only a few.