Soldiers complete a 70-year Memorial Day tradition, placing flags on the headstones of fallen service members AP Photo/Alex Brandon
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Ellis with the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places a flag at a headstone of U.S. Army Col. Kurush Bharucha-Reid for "Flags In," at Arlington National Cemetery, Thursday, May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Va. The soldiers are placing nearly a quarter of a million American flags at the headstones in the cemetery in a Memorial Day tradition. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As part of a Memorial Day tradition, soldiers placed 280,000 flags on the headstones of fallen service members at Arlington National Cemetery.

The tradition, which soldiers call “flags-in,” has been held every year since the 3rd U.S. Infantry, known as the “Old Guard,” was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit 70 years ago.

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Specialist Kristen Pinnock participated in the tribute for the first time this year, saying, “I’m thinking about the families, what they had gone through. What they still go through.”

“It really pulls at your heartstrings as it reminds you that we’ll always be there, we’ll always honor our guys,” Staff Sergeant Jason Kohne added.

It takes nearly 1,000 soldiers to complete the ritual, and they also perform the same task at U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

“I would do this every single year I could until I retire, if I could,” Army Pvt. Wes DeFee said. “It’s such an honor to help the families and support them with honor and respect.”

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