How Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley honors the fallen on Memorial Day

General Mark Milley on honoring fallen heroes
General Mark Milley on honoring fallen heroes... 02:38

Memorial Day ceremonies are to pause and remember the hefty price of freedom, but while Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the public this year, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley wants to make sure every American's eyes are open to the sacrifice of service.

"It's important that I come here and reflect and remember the fallen," Milley said. "I have soldiers that are buried here that died under my command."

Captain Michael Tarlavsky was an immigrant who became one of Milley's best lieutenants.

"I encouraged him to go to Special Forces and become a Green Beret. He did that. Then he was killed in action in Iraq," Milley said.

General Mark Milley seen at Arlington National Cemetery.  CBS News

CBS News visited his grave during the "flags in" tradition, when the old guard places more than 240,000 flags at each headstone in four hours with military precision.

A boot length. A flag. A prayer. 

"Tough kid, hard kid," Milley said. "If you don't mind, I'm going to plant a flag for him, say a little prayer." 

Why a flag at every gravestone?

"Why American flag?" Milley said. "Because that is the symbol of our nation. That's the symbol of the freedom that we all enjoy. And every single one of them served their country. And many of them were killed in action defending those very freedoms that are symbolized by that flag."

Krista Anderson's husband, Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson, was killed in 2013 — just 25 days after arriving in Afghanistan. She said Memorial Day is her "favorite weekend of the year."

"Actually, it's my favorite weekend of the year because every year, we realize more and more how many people honor them. So we honor him every day, right?" Anderson said. "We remember him every day. And this weekend, everybody does."

Simpson was a Green Beret. So was Milley.

"Take this from me," Milley said to Anderson. "This is my beret, and that's in honor of your dad, OK? Just like your dad's."

Milley said for the families of the fallen, every day is Memorial Day. But on Memorial Day, all Americans remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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    Norah O'Donnell is the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News." She also contributes to "60 Minutes."