In most places in America, there may not be mass gatherings with hats or saluting hands on this Remembrance Day.
There may also be no red, white and blue seas that mark the grave stones that stretch for miles across the hillside.
But despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral directors across the country said men and women serving their country would still be respected and remembered this weekend.
“We will still respect our veterans, especially those who make the highest sacrifice,” said Ed Hajduk, director of the Alleghenies National Cemetery in Cecil Township, Pennsylvania. “Speaking for myself as a veteran, this ceremony is very important for all of us.”
Hajduk served in the US Navy from 1980 to 2008, spent six active years, and 22 years in Navy reserves. He took over as funeral director last fall.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, he had anticipated the usual crowd of nearly 1,000 people for the annual memorial service at the funeral. This year, services will be closed to the public, to maintain social distance requirements.
Even so, the cemetery is open to the public for a visit this weekend, although people are encouraged to consider visiting Saturday and Sunday to avoid the large crowd who come Monday.
“We cannot stop people from visiting,” Said Hajduk. “People want to visit their loved ones.”
In a news release last week, the National Funeral Administration said it was “Difficult decision” not to have public Remembrance Day services throughout the nation. In exchange, the grave staff will hold a ceremony to lay a small wreath “Taps.” This release also states that service images will be shared on social media and some may even be live-streaming.
The NCA also announced last week that it would also not participate in mass flag placements in graves.
“NCA relies heavily on volunteers for the placement and collection of grave flags for Remembrance Day and this activity attracts thousands of volunteers every year,” release word. “Limiting the number of volunteers is not practical.”
In an email, Les’ MeInyk, head of public affairs and outreach for the NCA, said visitors to the funeral over the weekend were welcome to “Place each flag in a grave to honor friends and family.”
“We ask all visitors to comply with state, local health, safety and travel guidelines.” he said in the email.
In West Virginia, Keith Barnes, director of Grafton National Cemetery, said his staff will also conduct a brief ceremony to place bouquets and conduct “Taps.” He said they planned to stream it on Facebook, but they would not reveal the time.
“As soon as we give time, we will have people appear,” Barnes said.
In Grafton, Memorial Day is known for its large parade that marches through the city to the cemetery, where they hold conventions. Barnes said the parade attracted around 3,000 people, but this year, it was canceled.
That was in his mind, he said he still suspected there would be many people visiting the cemetery over the weekend.
“Memorial Day is about soldiers killed in battle – that is the highest sacrifice,” she says.
There is an older generation of veterans – World War II, Korea and Vietnam – and a younger generation of veterans who see battles and, he said, “Seems to know someone who died.”
“It’s about the battle for death, sacrifice and sacrifice of all veterans,” she says. “This is a big problem for us. This is a first for everyone. “
Many things are usually part of the Memorial Day service “From the table” for this year, according to Karl Lettow, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.
He said he could not have color guards, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, and other groups that would normally play a role in their annual ceremony at the Iowa Veterans’ Cemetery.
“With good reason, it’s not available right now,” Lettow said. “The number of people who will be needed for a complete program will make you exceed the limit very quickly. We don’t have big meetings, but we will do live streaming and services on our Facebook page. “
Likewise, the Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia will have a closed ceremony for 15 minutes at Winchester National Cemetery. They also will not publish the time or location of services to prevent people from gathering.
“This will not be a forgotten holiday.” said Matthew Priest, director of the Culpeper National Cemetery Complex. “It will be different this year. The legacy of these veterans will live forever. “
Usually, they are “Beautiful” The Memorial Day service attracts around 500 people. This year, this will be virtual. They also usually have hundreds of volunteers who place the flag in the cemetery, but that won’t happen this year either.
“This is a humbling experience, especially with young people because it teaches them patriotism,” Priest said. “If volunteers want to go out and put up a flag, they are welcome to do it. We advise people to stick to social distance guidelines. “
Imam said the veterans community had been very understanding about this year’s changes in the commemoration of Remembrance Day, and was grateful that some types of ceremonies would still take place.
“They understand the importance of what we do,” she says. “We are all together. Our primary concern is the safety of staff, community members, our veterans, and respect for those who make major sacrifices. “
Michael Borishade, assistant director of Marion National Cemetery in Indiana, said he had also received positive feedback from the veterans community, saying that they understood the pandemic that had been presented. “Domestic security issues, and that is our number one priority.”
Memorial Day attracted thousands of people to Marion’s funeral, he said, but this year, their services will be closed to the public.
“It will feel different, but we still plan to commemorate the Day of Remembrance and honor those who served,” she says. “We do hope that people might come out, and that’s fine as long as they comply with the CDC guidelines.”
Borishade served in the U.S. Navy in Kuwait and Iraq from 1999 to 2004. As a war veteran, he said he still planned to honor those who died. “Personally – maybe at home with my family.”
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