PBS’s multi award-winning NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Tony-nominated actress and star of TV’s FALLING WATER, THE WEST WING and THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, Mary McCormack.
The 30th annual broadcast of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.
A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes 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 2019 anniversary edition of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will feature the following stories:
- 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion – featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott (A STAR IS BORN).
The concert will share the remarkable story of 98-year-old Ray Lambert (Elliott), a highly-decorated combat medic who landed on Omaha Beach in the largest amphibious invasion in history and a pivotal step in the Allied march to victory in World War II. As part of the first wave onto shore, Lambert quickly established a treatment area, saving soldiers, dragging them to safety and comforting the dying as best he could, even while being shot twice himself. He continued his efforts before being seriously wounded. Lambert’s story honors every man who landed on the beaches of Normandy that day.
- Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood – brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert (24, MAJOR LEAGUE) and Joe Mantegna.
Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen – Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) – who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
- A Gold Star Widow’s Journey – portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz (STATION 19, ROSEWOOD).
For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow – Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) – beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.
The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson (HAMILTON, BULL); multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley (GLEE, DREAMGIRLS); multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly. AMERICAN IDOL Season 17 finalist Alyssa Raghu joins the show for a special performance of the “National Anthem.”
Also participating in the event are the U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff with The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Chorus and Army Voices, The Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, The U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, the Armed Forces Color Guard and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.
The concert will also be streaming live on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 26 to June 9, 2019.