EAGLE POINT, Ore. — National cemeteries across the U.S. will still see ceremonies honoring fallen veterans for Memorial Day, but those ceremonies will be closed to the public due to ongoing concern over the new coronavirus.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) outlined its Memorial Day plans in a statement on Wednesday, saying that it planned to go ahead with solemn wreath-laying ceremonies at national cemeteries accompanied by the customary playing of Taps.
“This year, by necessity, will be different from past Memorial Day observances,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “While the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice.”
Both Eagle Point National Cemetery and Roseburg National Cemetery will have a brief wreath-laying ceremony, a moment of silence, and the playing of Taps. However, CDC guidance on limiting large gatherings means that the ceremonies will not be open to the public.
The traditional placement of flags at grave sites will not happen this year. However, all VA national cemeteries in the nation will remain open for Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk so that the public can visit.
"Cemetery visitors are asked to adhere to health and safety guidelines and maintain physical distancing while visiting," the VA said. "Visitors are also urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day. Families may continue the tradition of placing flowers and small American flags at their Veteran’s gravesite."
The VA is also launching a web page where the public can pay tribute to veterans, featuring a list of all service members interred at a VA cemetery. Starting Thursday, visitors to the site can leave a comment on a veteran's individual page to voice memories and appreciation for that veteran's service. All comments will be reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate before they will be posted, the VA said.