For the last 13 years, Joe Mantegna, star on CBS’s Criminal Minds, has hosted PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert which honors all Americans who served this country in the armed forces. “It is to honor Memorial Day which I feel is the most important holiday the country has, because without Memorial Day, we would have no other holiday,” Mantegna told uInterview.

The concert is not only for the armed forces, but for their families who also bear a heavy burden, specifically if their loved ones are not among those who return. Mantegna joined American Gold Star Mothers’ Ruth Stonesifer, whose son was the first casualty of the Afghanistan War, to discuss Memorial Day and the meaning of the concert. “The concert is a wonderful performance that is dedicated to the service that the men of the armed forces do,” Stonessifer told uInterview. “It is a tribute to them for their past services as veterans and for the fallen and for the families that support them.”

The 90-minute concert will air on PBS on Sunday, May 25 starting at 8 p.m. and will be co-hosted by Mantegna and Gary Sinese.

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Q: What can viewers expect at the concert? - Uinterview

RUTH STONESIFER: Well, the concert is a wonderful performance that is dedicated to the service that the men of the armed forces do. It is a tribute to them for their past services as veterans and for the fallen and for the families that support them.
JOE MANTEGNA: You know, it is to honor Memorial Day which I feel is the most important holiday the country has, because without Memorial Day, we would have no other holiday. So it's a collection of musical numbers, and dramatic readings, and for those 90 minutes we encourage people to watch the show, if nothing else it would at least explain to them why we have Memorial Day.

Q: Ruth, you lost your son in Afghanistan. Can you describe him? - Uinterview

RS: My son was a vegan vegetarian, philosophy major at the University of Montana when he decided to do the fun stuff that the Rangers do like jump out of planes and repel down helicopters. He was in Ranger school, when 9/11 happened and stepped off into a ditch on night moves and sprained his ankle pretty bad. He got sent back to battalion after just four days of trying to stick it out and then he just couldn't put his boot back on over the swelling and ended back in battalion. So when October 9th and when the call went up for the Rangers to go over to Afghanistan, he cut off his cast, so he wouldn't be left behind and he was killed in a helicopter accident on October, 19th 2001.

Q: Joe, how did you get involved with the concert? - Uinterview

JM: Well, I got involved with this concert 13 years ago, when my dear friend Charles Durning, a fellow actor asked me, if I would participate and, to tell you the truth, I wasn't familiar with the concert at that point. I come from a lot of military in my family, but fortunately they all came back from different conflicts, so Memorial Day didn't have quite the impact as it had on me for these past 13 years, because when I first did this concert, 13 years ago it resonated with me so strongly as to the sacrifices these men and women men like Ruth's son have made for our country. It allows me to live the life I live and allows us all to live the life that we do. From that point on, the first concert I did 13 years ago to today it has became a very important weekend for me. It's probably the most important thing I do every year.

Q: What is your message to our troops on Memorial Day? - Uinterview

RS: Well, my message is to most of the Gold Star Mother's out there, that experience the real darkness after they hear the news of their son or daughter has been killed while serving in the armed forces, that there are other Gold Star members, family members and dad's out there that can help, that we can reach out and be a network of positive energies to take them from the really dark times into doing some really positive things for the veterans and that comes over time, but that is the most healing processing of dealing with the death of a loved one.
JM: Well for me it's just that freedom isn't free, people have to be aware of that and that is not a political thing. In other words, since the 1700s, from the founding of this nation men and women have sacrificed their limbs and lives so that we could live in the country that we live in. These men and women in many circumstances have paid the ultimate price and so in return what we have to do as a populist is give them 110% support. Just things like if you see a service man or woman coming up the street you go up to them and say, 'Thank you for your service!' Those little moments, and little gestures are just in themselves are important and anything beyond that - in terms of support or our giving or charity giving, keep in mind organizations like Gold Star Mothers or Wounded Warriors whatever it may be, it's to help these men and women.