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In 2021, Capital Concerts announced a special presentation of the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise, with all-star performances and tributes from Washington, D.C. and around the country honoring all of our American heroes. Because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol was not be held. The special pre-taped 90-minute presentation of the 32nd annual National Memorial Day Concert aired on Sunday, May 30, 2021, honoring our men and women in uniform, their families at home and all those who have given their lives for our country.

A three decades-long tradition unlike anything else on television, this deeply moving and reverential night took us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists. The 2021 National Memorial Day Concert shared the following stories:

  • Vietnam Nurses Tribute – performed by Emmy Award-winning actress Kathy Baker (PICKET FENCES). 

The concert honored the more than 265,000 women who served during the Vietnam War era and paid special tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of the nurses who served in Vietnam who saved thousands of lives and comforted the dying in their final moments. The experiences of Diane Carlson Evans, founder of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., were shared.

  • 70th Anniversary of the Korean War – portrayed by Emmy Award-winning actor Joe Morton (SCANDAL). 

Seventy years after the Korean War, the concert paid tribute to the more than 1.7 million Americans sent to fight in this brutal conflict, and the over 36,000 American lives lost. No group exemplified the courage and heroism of our fighting forces more than the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company. Taking on dangerous assignments, serving with distinction and honor, this elite Airborne unit was the Army’s only all-black Ranger Infantry Company. On the cusp of our military’s integration, these trailblazing heroes changed attitudes, and opened possibilities for all African American men and women in uniform.

In a segment hosted by Steve Buscemi, the concert commemorated the 20 years since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, remembering all those who died that tragic day and in the twenty years since in service to our nation. It was a pivotal time for the country, and many Americans were inspired to join our all-volunteer armed forces. The concert honored these service members and their families affected by a generation at war and shared the poignant story of one Gold Star Family.

Following the horrific 9/11 attacks, Staff Sergeant Joseph Phaneuf II was inspired to rejoin the National Guard and was soon deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan. After five years of service, Phaneuf died in December, 2006, of injuries suffered when an IED detonated near his humvee during combat operations. Left to grieve were his wife Michele, a son and two young daughters. Since his untimely passing, Michele and Jordan, who was only 9 at the time, remember him and the sacrifices he gave for his country.

America’s national night of remembrance featured: distinguished American statesman General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); “Empress of Soul” and seven-time Grammy Award-winner Gladys Knight; country music superstar and 22-time Grammy Award-winner Vince Gill; Grammy Award-winner, Tony and Emmy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, actress and author Sara Bareilles; multi-platinum selling country music icon and Grammy, CMA and ACM Award-winner Alan Jackson; Emmy and Grammy Award-winning international mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves; Motown legends and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Tops; Broadway, film and television star Brian d’Arcy James; the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; a new special edition of annual audience favorite Salute to Services with the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Pentagon; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Country music star and Grammy-nominee Mickey Guyton opened the show with a special performance of the national anthem.

The National Memorial Day Concert aired on PBS, Sunday, May 30, 2021, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert also streamed on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and was available as Video on Demand, May 30 to June 13, 2021. Also participating were members from The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Voices and Army Chorus, 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.

The 2021 National Memorial Day Concert was live streamed on PBS.orgYouTube and Facebook.

Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo performed “Hero” on the 2020 National Memorial Day Concert. Aired May 24, 2020 on PBS.