World War I Veterans will be honored during First Colors, a 90-minute virtual, free broadcast 10 a.m. Eastern April 16.

Actor Gary Sinise hosts the inaugural flag raising at the Memorial site and virtual program, held only online at

The program honors those who served in the trenches and on the home front. It also celebrates a nation forever changed by the sacrifices they made. The ceremony will feature remarks from present and past military officials and government leaders as well as entertainment celebrity appearances.

An artist illustration of the National World War I Memorial.

An artist illustration of the National World War I Memorial.

The event will also include a performance of “God Bless the U.S.A” by Lee Greenwood, featuring acapella group Home Free and members of the Air Force Band. Also featured are highlights from the film “A Soldier’s Journey,” which tells the story of the design and importance of the World War I Memorial. Additionally, First Colors will include:

  • Music from the United States Army Band Pershing’s Own. The bugler will use the bugle owned by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.
  • A performance by the 396th Regiment “Hellfighters Band.” This all-Black unit in World War l’s segregated Army helped bring jazz to Europe.
  • A song from the musical “Hello Girls, The Musical” that portrays the first women to actively serve in the Army as heroic World War l telephone operators.

The live flag-raising ceremony will include a flyover by the 94th Fighter Squadron, formerly the 94th Aero Squadron. They started its prestigious history as the most victorious air warfare unit of World War I on March 6, 1918. The unit was the first American-trained pursuit squadron to reach the front and see combat service. Pilots of the 94th developed an insignia to commemorate their being the first unit. They also painted Uncle Sam’s Hat on the side of their Nieuport 28 planes before their first flight. The squadron included Ace pilots James Meissner and Douglas Campbell and Medal of Honor recipient Eddie Rickenbacker, also known as the “Hat in the Ring Gang.”

“As our nation’s flag is raised for the first time over this hallowed ground that honors those who served in the Great War, we can take pride in the legacy of service and sacrifice by those who wear the uniform of our great country,” said Terry Hamby, Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission. “We invite Americans across the country to view this momentous occasion and reflect on this significant generation’s place in our country’s history.”

About the flag

The inaugural flag flew over the U.S. Capitol, where it signaled the nation’s commitment to fight. The American Battle Monuments Commission then flew the flag at nine World War I cemeteries in Europe. Those sites include Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, the burial site for American aviators who volunteered even before America declared war. Another site was Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, on the legendary battlefield of Belleau Wood. This site was one of the hardest-fought American victories in the war. Finally, representing the coming home of nearly 2 million soldiers who returned from Europe, the flag returned to the United States to fly at the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

More information

First Colors is presented by the World War l Centennial Commission in cooperation with the Doughboy Foundation, the National Park Service, and the American Battle Monuments Commission. For more information, visit

Graphic of First Colors ceremony

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Published on Apr. 14, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3 min.

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  1. William F Armstrong April 21, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    My reply is listed above.
    Many thanks.

  2. William F Armstrong April 21, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    Very impressive presentation of the history of WW1, I am very interested in speaking with a staff member regarding a listing on the “Roll of Honor”. I searched for my Great Uncle, George A. Wood, who was killed in action, in France September 29, 1918.He was the first and only African American from York, PA to be killed in the war. My search turned up George R. Wood and it is very strange that the profile somewhat is the same as my Uncle’s. Can someone assist me in better understanding the full profile of George R Wood, i.e. which part of PA is George R from, the date of his enlistment and the date of his death. Would greatly appreciate any assistance that can be provided. Many thanks for your time, consideration and assistance.


    Bill Armstrong

  3. Gary Smith April 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Great Uncle Mike Grugel served in the U.S. Army & was killed in action during the Musse Argonne Offensive. He is interned at the Remagen, France Cemetery. His father (my Great Grandfather) served in the Prussian Army before immigrating to the U.S.

    Father Verne served in the Coast Guard during WWII assault LCVP Coxswain in the Pacific. Father in law Navy Gunners Mate joined at end of WWII & served in the Korean War

    Four of my uncles served in WWII: Uncle Don Army Infantry BAR in New Guinea & Philippines- Bronze Star V & Purple Heart, Uncle Paul Army Infantry in Europe, Uncle Art 8th Air Corp North Africa & England, Uncle Frank killed in action Buna Offensive New Guinea.

    Cousins Sonny & Eddie served in the Air Force during

    Cousin John served in the Army & was killed in Vietnam. I served in the Navy in Vietnam 1967-1968

  4. DANA A TAWNEY April 16, 2021 at 3:16 pm

    I enlisted in the USA in 1967, Kansas City MO. I first be came acquainted with the amazing WWI War Memorial in Kansas City, MO and found it emotionally moving and beautiful. Years later I rediscovered it to find that it was also developed a world class Museum and it produced even more emotional significance after my veteran experiences. I now go back through Kansas City to experience the museum/memorial on a regular basis. On a memorial day celebration I was privileged to meet the sole remaining WWI American Veteran, Frank Buckles. He was 107 at the time. He was still tough and was still able walk for limited distances.

  5. Debra Kraft April 15, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    I am a volunteer at the VFW Post in Sun Valley CA and very grateful for your dedication to all of of servicemen and servicewomen. Listening to their individual and very personal stories of where they have been and all they sought and fought for , can only leave someone like me , forever grateful .
    Their experiences may be different but when they speak , they are all united as one . They all have the same goal , to keep America free!
    I am so privileged and proud to get to know these men and women . God Bless them all and keep them safe and THANK YOU..

  6. Michael C. Thomas April 15, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    My grandfather was Roland Calvin Thomas (1899-1968.) He was born in Wingate, No. Carolina and raised in Kershaw, So. Carolina. He was a Corporal leading a Lewis machine gun squad with Company M, 118th Infantry, 30th Division, AEF. On October 15, 1918, even though wounded twice, he led his gun crew through heavy fire on an assault that breached the German Hindenburg line in Vaux-Andigny, France. A third wound took him out of the action and after recouping in a French hospital/chateau, he returned to the US.
    For his bravery and “extraordinary heroism”, on March 11, 1919, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the US Army and the Croix de Guerre by France (Charlotte Observer, Aug. 19, 1928.) The same newspaper article stated he was awarded a membership in the US Army and Navy Legion of Valor. I have been unable to find the French citation but did find the citation awarding “The Military Cross” by the British Government.
    He married Jessie Mae Ferguson in 1920 and they had three children; two daughters, Rachael and Shirley, and a son, Roland Franklin Thomas (1922-1953.) The family lived in Gastonia, NC. Roland C. worked as a carpenter and furniture maker. He was also a union organizer.
    During WWII his son served with the Marines (VMSB-141, MAG-14) and saw action at Guadalcanal until side-lined by malaria in 1943. I served in the Marines during Vietnam (’65-’68) but was one of the few who didn’t experience combat.
    Very proud of my father and especially grandpa Thomas.
    Semper Fi

  7. Joyce Shavers April 15, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    My grandfather was in the Army in WW1 as a horse drawn ambulance driver at Battle Creek,Michigan. He was sent home because of the Spanish Flu epidemic. He passed away many years ago. Proud of his service and all the other vets of WWII, Korean Conflict, Vietnam War and War in Iraq, our family was in Army, Navy, Marines, Army Air Corp. Thank you all veterans and families for your service and sacrifices.

  8. FRANCIS GEYER April 15, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Mr. Sinese you are one of a kind in more categories than I can appropriately name.

    My grandfather served in WWI, fought in an artillery brigade at the Battle for Toul Mount.
    He was later gassed and suffered from serious asthma the rest of his glorious life, never complaining since he was free
    My uncle Robert Saxton was killed during rehearsals for The Invasion of Normandy.
    My beloved uncle, Clarence Geyer served in Europe in WWII and made it home safely.
    I served originally with 7th Armor in WW 2.6 aka Vietnam Era.

    Plus, I had the high honour of working with you and so many other great people, as the Sherrif of Greenbow, Alabama in “FORREST GUMP”

    Thank you for being a GREAT AMERICAN.

    Frank “Francis” Geyer

    • Ron NaSal April 15, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      My grandmother arrived in the United States in in 1906 from Feldkrich, Lichenstein on the Kaiser Wilhelm ll sailing from Bremen, Germany. Her cousin Robert Lang passed away in 1919 from wounds received in WW1 fighting on the German side.

  9. D Bedell April 15, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    Lewis Jesse Bedell Collection, 1918-1919, 2019

    0.2 cubic feet

    World War I correspondence, military papers, postcards, and miscellaneous material of a farmer from Atchison County, Missouri, who served in France with the American Expeditionary Forces. Also includes a book by his grandson Duane Bedell that includes transcriptions of the letters.

  10. Wilfred J Alexander April 15, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    I am Wilfred J .Alexander, a US NAVY VIETNAM VETERAN, who served on active duty aboard (1) the USS VALLEY FORGE LPH 8 ( MAY 1969-DEC 1969) and (2) the USS MIDWAY CVA 41 (JAN 1970-FEB 1973) and US NAVY RESERVE (MAR 1974-OCT1992). It is my HONOR to pay my respects to WW1 VETERANS to be honored during an online ceremony featuring Gary Sinise on Friday April 16, 2021. Submitted by, Wilfred J. Alexander SKC, USNR (Ret.)

  11. Julian Pena, Jr. April 15, 2021 at 11:49 am

    Thank you Gary Sinise! My Grandfather was in the Navy in WW1. His wife’s brother was US Army Cavalry in Europe. Her brother was killed in action. A cousin of my Grandmother, US Army, died in a VA hospital in Los Angeles due to mustard gas injury in WW1.
    Like so many others posting here, our families have suffered too. My father was a US Navy Gunner in WWII. He survived a night battle when the USS Northampton CA 26 was sunk by two Japanese torpedoes. A Radioman 3rd by the name of Jason Robards also survived that night. Another cousin of my father’s went MIA in Philippines WWII never to be found. It goes on and on but these wars never stop. We need to demand peace now, because the next war could end it all for everyone. I served in the US Navy 1968 to 1974 aboard USS Midway CVA41. It was not a fun time to be coming home and having people hurl insults at you.
    I think U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Butler said it best, (I’ll refrain from posting his comments). But it is a cold and hardened truth!

  12. Gregory Beining April 15, 2021 at 10:41 am

    My maternal grandfather was with the 318th Engineers at the Meuse Argonne in WWI, my father and all his brothers and older sister were in WW!! and I was with the cavalry in Vietnam along with two cousins. It’s great to see events like this, but I would really hope it’s going to be recorded so that people that don’t have an opportunity to view it live will still be able to see it.

    • Wilfred J Alexander April 15, 2021 at 12:54 pm

      HI Shipmate Julian Pena, Jr.,
      Great writeup; I served aboard the USS MIDWAY CVA 41 in the Supply Department (S3 DIVISION SALES & SERVICES). I was a Ship Serviceman SH2/SH3(BARBER); as a “BARBER”. As a Barber working in the “Crews Barber Shop”; I probably gave You a Military Haircut. STAY SAVE from COVID 19. Wilfred J. Alexander, SKC, USNR (Ret.)

  13. I. Robert Miller April 15, 2021 at 10:07 am

    Dear Gary, sorry you couldn’t fly us WWII veterans to the WWII museum due to the virus, now you are honoring my father, who was in WWI, my sister, who was a WAC in WWII would have loved it, she Joined as a private, made Lt, was an Army Air controller at an Army air field in ILL, she died at age 100, my son was a Navy submariner on the USS Sam Rayburn and I was in WWII. My first Navy adventure was at age 13, when I Joined the Jr Naval Reserve, & worked my way up to Petty Officer, AMM 3/c, then at age 17 enlisted in the Navy on January 1940, & , dropped 300lb depth charges on German U-boats in the Atlantic before & after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Transferred to aviation for invasion of North Africa, then to Pacific for Guadalcanal & Solomons, then to invasion of Southern France, back to the Pacific for Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.
    Thank you for all you do for all our veterans .

  14. Harry Wetherill Foster III April 15, 2021 at 8:48 am

    My Father served in the Coast Guard during WWII, and I was a 1st Lt. in Viet Nam, 68/69. The time I spent in the service was incredible and some of the best times of my life – especially the time overseas. I did things and saw things that can only be understood by fellow servicemen. May God bless you for your upcoming program, and all of our current and former servicemen and women as well.

  15. Johnnie Eames April 15, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Both my grandfathers served in the army in Europe during WW1, one in the artillery, the other in the infantry. Neither one would volunteer any information about their service. They stepped up, did their duty, and then tried to put their lives back together.

  16. Joseph Ross April 15, 2021 at 1:47 am

    Please save our country from Americas new Barbarians. Joe Biden is the blame here. Joe Ross Annapolis Md.

  17. Joseph Ross April 15, 2021 at 1:40 am

    I’m a Vietnam Marine Veteran 68/69 central highlands. My name is Joe Ross. Thank God for our veterans and our Military. A special thanks for Gary Sinise and all he has done for our Country and our veterans. Gary thank God for you.

  18. Fred R Crowder April 15, 2021 at 1:31 am

    My maternal grandfather served in WWI.His name was John Raymond Katerman. Buried at Williamette National Cemetery.

    I also had a great uncle who served during in the Navy serving in the USS Colorado during WW. His name was Rives Long Crowder.

  19. Anthony L. Ayala April 14, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    Our trying to keep up in using our web in our elderly years is extremely difficult… with that in mind, please consider! I am 97, lost all of my ww2 friends & trying to beat the pandemic…

  20. Anthony L. Ayala April 14, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    As a youth, I remember a class student in my special music class who had been gassed in the ”WAR to End All Wars”. Little did I realize, in later years I would be serving my country in the China-Burma-India theater during ww2 & hopping my family, grandkids and, great-grandkids do not have to follow.

  21. Roxanne Martz April 14, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    So greatful to live in this country and thank you to my brothers and sisters still fighting for our right to be free. God bless America and the people who donate time, funds, supplies, food, shelter, or just a shoulder for a weary soul to lean on. Thank you. These are troubling times and we need each other more than ever now to pull together. Thank you Sir, for your continued dedication to our warriors.

  22. Ron Rozewski April 14, 2021 at 8:38 pm ???

    Link provided not working.
    A 502 Server Error
    “Web server received an invalid ewsponse who;e acting as a gateway or proxy server.”

    This is very disapponting and time consuming.

  23. John W. Barry April 14, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    William J. Van Hatten served in G Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division. He received a gun shot through the neck near Fismes, returned to his unit 14 days later and participated in the assault at Juvigny. He redeployed to the Meuse-Argonne and participated in the capture of La Cote Dam Marie, whi ch broke the Hindenberg defensive line in late October, 1918. He was in the field on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
    He also served with his unit in the occupation of Germany.
    More details regarding Van Hatten and the 32nd Division are chronicled in “The Mid West Goes to War.” My Grandfather was proud of his service, as was my Father, who served in the 491st Bombardment Group in 1944. My turn came in 1968 in A Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in South East Asia.

  24. Keith Allen Mcknight April 14, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you for our VA

  25. Peter Diehr April 14, 2021 at 7:20 pm

    Two of my grandfathers served in WW I, both prior and subsequent veterans. In addition, my grandmother’s older sister, Eva Kelly, was a Red Cross nurse in the A.E.F., serving about a year, coming home in June of 1919. Note: the original family name was Köhli, from Switzerland. The name was Americanized shortly after their immigration in 1818. She had three uncles serve in the Civil War, her grandfather served during the Black Hawk War, and her great grandfather, a mariner in Detroit, was in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812.

    Harlan Foster was in the USMC, 14 July 1910 thru 29 May 1912. He was discharged at Boston Navy Yard, and had been serving aboard USS New Hampshire, “lately serving in the Caribbean.” He entered WW I with a young family, but was a changed man when he came home, resulting in a divorce in 1921. Following his divorce from my grandmother, he enlisted in the US Army, Battery F, 55th Artillery, and reported aboard the transport Buford, to Honolulu. He is listed as a sergeant.

    Lawrence Diehr enlisted in the US Army, BTRY “C”, 2nd Regiment Field Artillery, at Columbus Barracks, Ohio on October 6, 1914, transit on S.S. Logan from San Francisco to Manilla, Dec 5, 1914; served in Philippines thru Sept. 15, 1917, where he took shrapnel to the legs, then reenlisted in A.E.F. Served in Field Artillery during many battles from January to November of 1918. Rank: corporal; duties: motor mechanic; wounds: none. Reenlisted for one year in 6th Field Artillery in May 1919 at Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky; discharged May 1920 at same. Service was as “Clarence Dear”, which rhymes with his birth name.

  26. Keith Allen Mcknight April 14, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    God Bless America and all who have served our country in the time of pease and that of War Time. Keith Allen Mcknight USN 1967-1973

  27. Johnnie R Pekala April 14, 2021 at 6:39 pm

    I’m a Vietnam Vet my father fought the Japanese. I’m. Grateful for all you do to keep all the vets in everyone’s heart and mind. God Bless us all. Thanks for all you do.

  28. John Randall Coley April 14, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    So glad to see this memorial has been created for all to enjoy. I lost a Great Uncle in WW1 at the Meuse-Argon, only one month before the war ended… What a waste for him and hundreds of thousands more men and their families. RIP all you brave men who met the call and gave all.

  29. Richard Ochoa April 14, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    Semper Fi to Gary Sinise!!! (A True American Patriot!)

  30. Larry Coots April 14, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    I will remember my Grandfather, Walter Vail Coots, a PVT in WWI. Also G-d Bless America, written for the WWI Soldier’s Show by Irving Berlin.

  31. Amy April 14, 2021 at 5:46 pm

    My mother is 99 and a Marine vet. She met my father, a sergeant in the army, in Honolulu just months after the attack at Pearl Harbor. After the war ended they were discharged and both of my folks returned home to their homes, West Virginia for my mother and Michigan for my father. Weeks later my father drove to West Virginia to pick up my mother and return to Michigan to be married. They raised three children and were married for 65 years before my father passed away in 2010. Some of their fondest and proudest memories were of their time serving their county. We are so very fortunate to still have my mother with us. She is still sharp and has so many stories she can share. Thank you for continuing to honor these veterans.

  32. Edward J Takacs April 14, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    I think that every veteran that is going to participate in a Poppy Day should take time to see this.

Comments are closed.

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