PBS will unite our nation in honor of all of America’s men and women in uniform for their service and sacrifice with this annual presentation. The event will be led for the third year by co-hosts Gary Sinise (“CSI: NY”) and Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”), two acclaimed actors who have dedicated themselves to veterans’ causes and supporting our troops in active service.
This year, the event will pay special tribute to the veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam and the sacred war memorials built in their honor in Washington, DC. Actor and decorated World War II veteran Charles Durning, a longtime participant in the National Memorial Day Concert (2008), will also be recognized for his bravery and sacrifice as part of the “greatest generation,” who stepped forward in a time of need. The valor of the country's newest veterans will be honored through an examination of the bonds that buddies form on the battlefields of Afghanistan.
The television event will feature a mix of dramatic readings, documentary footage and live musical performances, along with an all-star line-up of dignitaries, actors and musical artists. This includes music legend Gladys Knight, classical crossover soprano and star of the stage Sarah Brightman, Best Actress Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel (Wicked , Rent ), actor and comedian Denis Leary (Rescue Me ), violin virtuoso Robert McDuffie, country music star Rodney Atkins, actor and singer John Schneider, actress Gail O'Grady, film and television actress Caitlin Wachs, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) and Charles Durning, the quintessential character actor and recipient of the 2007 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. The National Symphony Orchestra will be performing under the direction of top pops conductor Erich Kunzel. The event is broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, before an on-site audience of hundreds of thousands and is viewed by millions more at home. It can also be seen overseas by U.S. military personnel in more than 175 countries and aboard more than 200 U.S. Navy ships at sea on American Forces Radio and Television Network.