As if the evacuation of 2012 never occurred the 2013 PBS National Memorial Day Concert was a great concert from the moment Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna stepped on the stage until the last reverent concert goer left the United States Capitol West Lawn. The performances were picture perfect in a night that included a touching tribute to the late World War II veteran Charles Durning (1923-2012) and a stark performance by the hosts that was a very powerful dramatic recreation that revealed the wounds that warriors bear both physical and mental that must be addressed by the nation. Joe Mantegna gave an incredible performance.
“It is important not to forget for in remembering, however painful, that we bear the seeds of hope for a better tomorrow. Our memory is holy ground truly sanctified by the blood of not only six million Jews and five million others who died in those death camps, but also the 40 million men, women, and children whose lives were brutally ended. 300,000 of those were our American soldiers including a lot of my buddies. We do remember, we will not forget. Somewhere in the holy ground of our memory in a way more mysterious and sacred that we can understand every one of those precious human lives has a resting place and may they rest in peace,” were the words of Charles During replayed for the national audience on the giant screens. Ronan Tynan performed a musical tribute in honor of Charles During.
The 2013 PBS Memorial Day Concert was a flawless night of remembering those who gave their lives so all Americans would be free. The broadcast filled the airwaves with beautiful sound and priceless images of American soldiers who gave their lives and limbs to serve the land that they loved. There were many moments when the tears for those dearly departed loved ones flowed freely as the memories of their sacrifice was respectfully projected high above the Capitol grounds and Maestro Jack Everly led the National Symphony Orchestra.
Candice Glover, the newly crowned American Idol winner, made her debut at the event and admirably rendered the National Anthem to be followed by returning performer Jessica Sanchez who brought the audience to their feet to join her in singing God Bless America. Retired General Colin Powell gave an eloquent definition of the Meaning of Memorial Day before Actor Ed Harris took the stage for a presentation on the American involvement in the Korean War and the threat that currently exists. Harris introduced Sinise and Mantegna as they played the roles of twin brothers Joe and Earl Granville.
The Granville twins enlisted in the National Guard together and served four tours of duty. Earl Granville was injured in the line of duty and lost a leg. Joe Granville survived the physical threats of war; but was deeply disturbed by the loss of his comrades and the injury suffered by his twin brother. His story illustrated the tremendous burden that many soldiers carry after war even though they may not have physical wounds. Sinise called on all soldiers not be to bear the full burden of their trauma alone; but to seek the help they deserve. Chris Mann sang a tribute to the Granville twins as Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise comforted Joe Granville’s family.
Tony Award winner Alfie Boe from the cast of Les Miserables gave a beautiful performance of “Bring him Home,” that brought tears to the eyes of many in the crowd. Katherine Jenkins was equally evocative as she sang Pie lesu, a motet derived from the final couplet of the Dies irae. Her performance was exemplary.
The thunderous applause from the flag waving audience and the reverence given as each tribute was read was a stark refutation of the lies told on and about American support for the military and concern the nation holds for its men and women who stand in the line of fire to defend democracy. Ed Harris said no group has sacrificed as much as our National Guard. “Some have served three, four, even five tours. Until the very fabric of life becomes frayed and torn,” Harris said.
General Colin Powell asked Americans to continue to support soldiers after Memorial Day. He asks that citizens volunteer for programs that support the troops when they return home. He said Memorial Day is a day to say thank you. “With each passing year I become more grateful for the opportunity to stand here on this stage. This is our special time, Memorial Day, to honor the sacrifices, dedication, and courage of our service members. That they have demonstrated all of this during war and peacetime. Each year I am privileged to visit our monuments here in Washington, D.C. I am always deeply moved by the number of flowers, medals, and notes left in memory of loved ones,” Powell said. “Let us practice the lesson of the Good Samaritan. Do not pass by on the other side of those in need, but to reach out a helping hand as true neighbors. We can all do something. Volunteer to welcome our vets and their families back into the community,” he said.
The Capitol Police did an outstanding job of supporting the event organizers in producing a great concert event. Although the night was cool there were no disruptions to the great concert performances by every single member of the cast and crew from PBS.
As each branch of the service was presented on stage by Sinise members of the audience joined in singing the song that represents their branch of service. The order of presentation was:
United States Coast Guard, Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr, Commandant.
United States Air Force, General Larry Spencer, Vice Chief of Staff.
United States Department of the Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations.
United States Marine Corps, General John M. Paxton, Jr., Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The United States Army, General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff.
Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman, United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General Martin Demsey, Chairman, United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The National Memorial Day Concert is sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corporation and is made possible by the National Park Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of the Army, General Dynamics, and American Airlines.
PBS served the nation well with a great concert. The broadcast was flawless. 2014 will mark the 25th anniversary of the PBS National Memorial Day Concert. Sunday May 25, 2014. Mark your calendar to see an event that will reach a quarter of a century of honoring the members of the greatest military in the world.
Any United States Armed Forces member or veteran who is experiencing thoughts of suicide or needs support with trauma caused by their service should call the Military and Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.