COVID-19 Changing Memorial Day Events… But Not Day’s True Meaning
Everybody loves a three-day weekend, right? That’s what holidays often provide us with.
Looking forward to a holiday weekend is especially enjoyable if we have plans with family and friends.
Memorial Day is a great example. It’s always celebrated on a Monday. As the date approaches, we anticipate the fun we’ll have at parades and backyard barbeques.
This year, things are different. Most, if not all, parades and remembrances have been cancelled. Most backyard BBQs will be small and subdued. This year as Memorial Day nears, most of us aren’t preparing for fun. We’re preparing for survival.
How we can still celebrate
This Monday we won’t line streets to watch a parade or gather in groups to remember the fallen. But there are some things we can do as individuals or small family groups. One is laying wreaths or flags at the gravesites of U.S. veterans.
Another is by providing the American Legion with information. They’d like the name and service branch of our family members who died while serving their country.
The American Legion will compile and share a list through social media during Memorial Day weekend. We can do this by visiting http://www.legiontown.org/node/add/memorial-day?destination=thankyou.
Raising funds for frontline defenders
On Staten Island, New York, thousands have participated in the Memorial Day Flag 5K Run since 1981.
The event can’t happen in a normal fashion this year. So, organizers have put together an alternative. It’s called the Memorial Day Virtual Flag 5K Run/Walk for Our Heroes.
Those submitting an entry fee receive an event t-shirt, a finisher medal and a commemorative running bib. They then complete the race distance by running or walking on their own course or a treadmill. It’s all about showing solidarity.
Jeff Benjamin is board chair of the Staten Island Running Association. He said, “The most important goal of our event is to raise funds for our much-needed frontline defenders. (They) are now engaged round the clock in a war against the coronavirus.”
Vets’ biker event goes ‘virtual’
Another event is going virtual this year. It’s the Veterans’ Memorial Day Rolling to Remember Motorcycle event.
They’ve been roaring down the streets of Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day for 32 years. This year, veteran bikers will ride wherever they are.
They will each ride 22 miles on roads near their homes on May 24. That’s for the purpose of calling attention to the 20-plus daily veteran suicides occurring.
A statement from AMVETS read in part this way. “As always, the health and safety of our riders and the veteran community is our top priority.”
Some city officials are talking of combining Memorial Day celebrations with Fourth of July activities.
Of course, that is contingent upon society opening up more by early July. And there is obviously no guarantee of that.
Another option is adding Memorial Day remembrances to Veterans Day observances in November.
Those two holidays are more closely linked. Memorial Day commemorates men and women who died while in military service. Veterans Day is set aside to thank and honor all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
A time for reflection
There’s one thing we can all do this Memorial Day. Whether we’re alone or with a small number of immediate family members.
And that’s taking time to reflect on what Memorial Day really means. Hopefully most of us do this every year. But this year, maybe we can take some extra time for this.
I’ve never felt the magnitude of Memorial Day more than when I visited Arlington National Cemetery. And saw the hundreds of thousands of graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Those who fought and died for our country deserve at least a few moments of reflection from us on Memorial Day.
Did you know this?
To close, here are eight facts you may not know about Memorial Day.
- Memorial Day began because of the Civil War. During which approximately 620,000 soldiers died. This loss of life and its effects on communities was the original reason for the holiday.
- The city of Waterloo, New York is recognized for holding the first Memorial Day observance.
- The North and South originally celebrated Memorial Day on different days. That was due to the Civil War having torn a deep canyon between the two sides.
- Memorial Day was not established as an official holiday until 1968. At that time, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Law. It recognized a number of legal public holidays.
- The “National Moment of Remembrance” was established on December 28, 2000 by President Bill Clinton. It occurs each Memorial Day at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
- A number of Memorial Day customs are typically followed in the U.S. For example, flags fly at half-staff until noon. Then they’re raised to the top of the staff until sunset.
- After the Civil War, General John A. Logan decided fallen soldiers should be commemorated every year on May 30. In 1971, the holiday was moved to the last Monday in May.
- Every year there is a National Memorial Day Concert on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This concert includes a tradition to remember and respect all fallen soldiers.