While Memorial Day weekend is known to many as a time to play ball on the beach, drink beer and barbecue – Hollywood actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna are urging all Americans to take a moment to reflect on what the holiday is all about.
On the eve of Memorial Day, these two acclaimed screen stars will co-host the annual National Memorial Day Concert live from the U.S. Capitol, featuring an array of stories of American’s servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to preserve America’s freedoms.
“This is my eighth year doing this with Joe; it is something I look forward to every year. We bring our families here and there are so many veterans that are part of this event,” Sinise, who was brought into the event by Mantegna, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I can’t think of better place to be on Memorial Day weekend.”
And in the words of Mantegna, hosting the event is the single most important thing he does every year.
“I come from a military family. My mother’s four brothers and father’s brothers were all in World War II, and they were always influential in my life. All my family came back from the war, so I never understood the real importance of Memorial Day until I got involved with this concert,” Mantegna said. “It made me realize for us to have the rest of the holidays we have for the course of the year-- whether it be Christmas, Easter, Labor Day or President’s Day—[it] is because of the sacrifices made. The least we can do is set aside a day to honor [fallen soldiers] with this concert.”
The tribute, which will be televised on PBS Sunday night from 8 to 9.30 – also includes addresses from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, award-winning actor Ed Harris, “Dancing with the Stars” finalist Katherine Jenkins and a special performance of the National Anthem by new “American Idol,” Candice Glover.
The emotionally-charged 2013 concert will also feature a story of twin brothers who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with the National Guard, and the impact multiple deployments has on those who love them. The show will also include a tribute to WWII veteran Charles Durning, the prominent actor and longtime contributor to the annual concert, who passed away in December.
“I am forever grateful for Charles bringing me into this concert,” Mantegna said. “He was a dear friend and a colleague. There was a definite reason he was in my life and there is a reason he brought me into the concert. He gave me awareness I can give to others about why this holiday is so important.”
And amid all the hoopla of the long weekend, the concert co-hosts hope Americans tune in and take a moment to thank the military.
“It’s important that regular people just recognize where their freedom comes from, because we take that for granted in this country – we basically only know freedom. But when you go around the world you see other people in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, when you stand on the border of North and South Korea and realize there are millions of people enslaved, you start thinking about the cost of freedom,” Sinise added. “We aren’t born and privileged with freedom. Freedom is paid for and we are lucky we have a military that defends our freedom.”
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay