Memorial Day observances at the nation’s national cemeteries will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Large scale public ceremonies and group placements of flags at gravesites are on hold, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a release.
“VA will still honor veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice,” he pledged.
A new online memorial feature will also allow the public to pay tribute to the veterans who are interred in the 142 national cemeteries across the country. The Veterans Legacy Memorial will allow online visitors to leave a tribute on the page of an interred veteran beginning May 14.
A brief wreath-laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of Taps will be held at each cemetery. According to the release, the ceremonies will not be open to the public due to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which restrict large gatherings.
Wilkie will lead the wreath-laying at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia May 25. Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Pamela Powers will do the same at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia, while Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves will lay a wreath at Riverside National Cemetery in California on May 22, and at Calverton National Cemetery in New York on May 25. Live streaming, recorded video and photographs from these and other ceremonies and will be shared on NCA’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
All VA national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk for public visitation. Cemetery visitors are asked to adhere to health and safety guidelines and maintain physical distancing while visiting. They are also urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day, according to the release. Families may continue the tradition of placing flowers and small American flags at their veteran’s gravesite.