It's easy to get lost in the excitement surrounding Memorial Day. Before you prep for your backyard BBQ and bust out your swimsuits for summer, spend some quality time with your family remembering what the holiday is really about: the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. Consider the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS a friendly reminder to pay your respects during your three-day weekend. Now, find out why this spectacle one of the PBS' highest-rated programs each year - and how you can tune in.
The National Memorial Day Concert airs live on Sunday, May 26 at 8 p.m. on PBS.
Now in its 30th year, this 90-minute event takes you straight from your couch to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol with a mix of dramatic readings from military families and veterans, documentary footage, and of course, standout performances by top artists. The concert special, which seamlessly blends remembrance with celebration, has brought together some of Hollywood's finest stars throughout the years - Tom Hanks, Allison Janney, and George Clooney, to name a few - and 2019 is no exception.
Mary McCormack and Joe Mantegna are hosting this year's event.
This isn't the first go-around for either host. Joe Mantegna, who many of us recognize as David Rossi from Criminal Minds, started co-hosting the event with longtime friend Gary Sinise after Ossie Davis passed away in 2005. For the 71-year-old actor, this event is deeply personal because several of his family members have served in the military. His goal as a host is simple: He wants to make everyone at home "come away with a smile and a tear."
The same rings true for Mary McCormack, who has appeared on the broadcast for the last to years to share the stories of stories of Gold Star families and Silver Star recipients. This year, however, The Kids Are Alright actress is replacing Sinise as Mantegna's co-host. Even after 30-year career in Hollywood as the actress on The West Wing, In Plain Sight, and other primetime favorites, the 50-year-old says this gig is one of her favorites. "I've rarely in my life felt the level of passion and emotion that there is in this celebration," she said in the show's official press release. "My father is a Marine and I deeply appreciate what this show does to shine a light on military service."
Gary Sinise won't be attending for the first time in 14 years.
Well, there's a first for everything. Sinise, who has involved with the National Memorial Day Concert since 2005, recently announced that he won' be participating in Sunday night's event "due to circumstances beyond his control." Famous for his role as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, the actor was first introduced to the PBS special by Mantegna, who invited Sinise's band to be a part of a segment to highlight USO tours. His experience along with his work in Forrest Gump inspired decades of advocacy work to support the U.S. troops, ultimately leading him to start the Gary Sinise Foundation.
American Idol semi-finalist Alyssa Raghu is one of the performers.
To keep up with tradition, the 90-minute broadcast kicks off with the National Anthem performed by Alyssa Raghu, one of this year's contestants on American Idol. Other all-star performers and speakers include General Colin L. Powell, Sam Elliot, Patti LaBelle, Gavin DeGraw, Alison Krauss, Dennis Haysbert, Amber Riley, Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music, Christopher Jackson, Jaina Lee Ortiz, and Justin Moore.
This year's show will pay tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Before Sinise's departure from the show, he teased that PBS had plans to commemorate the anniversary of the D-Day landing (a.k.a. the most pivotal day in World War II) with a tribute to World War II veterans. Although the D-Day anniversary isn't until June 6, the broadcast will honor one of its most notable heroes, Sargent Ray Lambert.
PBS explains why they are remembering Lambert: "Among those landing on the beaches of Normandy was SGT Ray Lambert. As a medic in the 1st Infantry Division, SGT Lambert participated in some of the fiercest battles of World War II from North Africa to Sicily. Before landing in the first wave at Omaha Beach, SGT Lambert had already been awarded two Silver Stars for bravery and three Purple Hearts."
The concert will air again directly after the live broadcast.
If you can't make it to your TV in time, you can also stream the 2019 National Memorial Day Concert on PBS.org, YouTube, and Facebook. But if you're too busy crafting your Memorial Day poppies for the upcoming parade and you miss the 8 p.m. broadcast, PBS will replay the entire concert immediately after the initial airing wraps. That means you can catch all of the red, white, and blue magic at 9:30 p.m. - or better yet, stream it at a time that works best for you.
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