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Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore visits the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore visits the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore visits the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore visits the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Silver airborne wings rest on the grave of Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, placed there by his best friend, Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore. The pair used to skydive together before Witte was killed in action. The wings, as well as an American flag, were placed there during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Silver airborne wings rest on the grave of Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, placed there by his best friend, Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore. The pair used to skydive together before Witte was killed in action. The wings, as well as an American flag, were placed there during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A member of the Old Guard pauses at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va.
A member of the Old Guard pauses at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Silver airborne wings rest atop the grave of Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, placed there by his best friend, Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore, along with the American flag, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va.
Silver airborne wings rest atop the grave of Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, placed there by his best friend, Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore, along with the American flag, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Spc. Nicholas Connell salutes his father, Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., who was killed in action in 2007 in Iraq, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va.
Spc. Nicholas Connell salutes his father, Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., who was killed in action in 2007 in Iraq, during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va.
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
First Lt. David Harper of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va.
First Lt. David Harper of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Arlington, Va. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
American flags are seen placed at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015, as part of the Flags-In event.
American flags are seen placed at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, May 21, 2015, as part of the Flags-In event. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A bird checks out the American flag placed at a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, May 21, 2015, as part of the Flags-In. Every headstone in the cemetery had a flag placed at it by the Old Guard.
A bird checks out the American flag placed at a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, May 21, 2015, as part of the Flags-In. Every headstone in the cemetery had a flag placed at it by the Old Guard. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A rose rests near an American flag at a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday, May 21, 2015, during Flags-In. Every headstone received an American flag by the Old Guard.
A rose rests near an American flag at a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday, May 21, 2015, during Flags-In. Every headstone received an American flag by the Old Guard. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard wait for fellow servicemembers before starting Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard wait for fellow servicemembers before starting Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard march into Arlington National Cemetery at the start of Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A member of The Old Guard pauses for an interview during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
A member of The Old Guard pauses for an interview during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A member of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
A member of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
A member of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. The Air Force Memorial can be see in the background.
A member of The Old Guard places an American flag at a headstone during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. The Air Force Memorial can be see in the background. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, inside the columbarium.
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, inside the columbarium. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, inside the columbarium.
Members of The Old Guard looks more flags and more empty headstones toward the end of the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015, inside the columbarium. (Meredith Tibbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard had placed these flags inside the columbarium during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard had placed these flags inside the columbarium during the Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Roses rest near American flags placed at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery during the Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Roses rest near American flags placed at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery during the Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Shadows start to darken the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday, May 21, 2015, as Flags-In ends. Every headstone received an American flag by the Old Guard, some of which can be partially seen behind the trees.
Shadows start to darken the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday, May 21, 2015, as Flags-In ends. Every headstone received an American flag by the Old Guard, some of which can be partially seen behind the trees. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015.
Members of The Old Guard place American flags at headstones at Arlington National Cemetery during Flags-In on May 21, 2015. (Meredith TIbbetts/Stars and Stripes)

ARLINGTON, Va. — In Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, the emotion of the day caught up with Staff Sgt. Oliver Moore.

He had just placed silver airborne wings on the grave of his best friend, Staff Sgt. Kevin Michael Witte, in memory of the times they had gone skydiving together. Witte, 27, died in an improvised explosive device attack in Baghdad in 2006.

“With all the BS we put up with, we get one day a year where it puts everything in perspective. This is our generation,” Moore said, gesturing to the section where many of the casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been laid to rest.

Moore and more than 1,000 other servicemembers were taking part in Thursday's pre-Memorial Day Flags-In ceremony, conducted at Arlington every year since 1948 by the Old Guard. American flags — more than 228,000 of them — lined every headstone, their red, white and blue contrasting with the white marble.

“This section (60) is tough,” said Moore, who also visited the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James Scott Ochsner, killed in Afghanistan in 2005.

“It’s too crowded on Memorial Day," Moore added. "It’s just soldiers here today.”

In a different part of Section 60, at the grave of Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., another soldier saluted sharply: His son, Spc. Nicholas Connell, who placed the American flag at the base of the headstone.

“I know in my heart, as much as it means to me, the honor and sacrifice that everybody in here has given to us," Connell said. "If people could see us giving that same respect, they would want to do the same.”

James Connell was killed in 2007 in Iraq; Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya and Pfc. Christopher E. Murphy died in the same attack.

“My dad was an all-American, he was 100 percent a patriot," Connell said. "For me, he was more of a best friend. He was my football, basketball, baseball coach. We traveled so much as an Army brat, moved from place to place; that was my one buddy to go to talk to when something is bothering you.

"He was definitely a family man. I know he loved his family more than anything.”

His father, Connell said, is the reason he enlisted.

“Memorial Day is for us to come out here and honor the people who fought and have fallen for our country," Connell said. "Give them the respect they deserve, and the loyalty they deserve.”

Old Guard soldiers also placed flags at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington.

tibbetts.meredith@stripes.com Twitter: @mjtibbs

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