Franklin Det. Leigh Ann Hester Honored in 2018 Nat’l Memorial Day Concert

NPT observes Memorial Day with a live broadcast of the National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday, May 27, at 7 p.m. with an encore presentation immediately following at 8:30 p.m. The concert will be hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinese and will include a mix of performances, readings and tribute segments highlighting significant anniversaries, among them the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day itself.

Another segment will honor women in the military to mark the 70th anniversary od the signing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act by President Harry S. Truman. The 1948 act allowed women to officially serve in the U.S. armed forces, though women had taken part in the country’s military efforts since the Revolutionary War (sometimes disguised as men) and more prominently during the two world wars and during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Silver Star recipient SFC Leigh Ann Hester (center) in 2015 in Afghanistan. Courtesy of Capital Concerts

On Sunday, a more recent effort will be recognized. Williamson County resident Leigh Ann Hester enlisted in the National Guard as a military police officer in 2001. Four years later, she was awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat for her heroic actions during a March 2005 ambush outside of Baghdad. Hester became the first woman to receive the award since World War II and the first one to do so for valor in combat. Hester is now a detective with the Franklin Police Department.

For more on Hester’s service in Iraq and her participation in the National Memorial Day Concert, see these stories in the local media: The Tennessean; Brentwood Home Page and Williamson Herald.


Additionally, the 68-year friendship of Korean War veterans Joe Annello and Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura will be featured, as well as the story of Bill Rider, Purple Heart recipient during the Vietnam War.

Performers slated to appear in the 2018 Memorial Day Concert include Charles Esten (Nashville); actress/singer Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple); actor Graham Greene; singer/songwriter Leona Lewis; Broadway star Megan Hilty; tenor Alfie Boe (Les Misérables) and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

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.


Soldiers’ stories

NPT’s Memorial Day coverage continues Monday, May 28, at 8 p.m. with Going to War, a new documentary about what it means to serve in and return from war. The film features war correspondent Sebastian Junger, Vietnam War veteran and author Karl Marlantes and other veterans.


We had a surprise guest at our recent Indie Lens Pop-Up screening of Served Like a Girl. Nichole Alred, one of the veterans featured in the documentary joined the panel discussion. Served Like a Girl chronicles a group of women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as they compete in the Ms. Veteran America competition and work to overcome PTSD, homelessness and other challenges. Served Like a Girl airs on Independent Lens on Monday, May 28, at 9 p.m.

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