Is this any way to, first of all, honor our loved ones and Fallen Heroes with graveside visits, and secondly, to celebrate the unofficial start of summer by causing traffic jams on the way to hitting the beaches, as is the tradition in Massachusetts?
Well, some don’t think so. The announcement was made that Massachusetts residents will be allowed to go to the state’s beaches beginning Memorial Day, but with restrictions. Under the state’s reopening plan, at a minimum, all beach visitors older than 2 must wear a face covering or mask when they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. This requirement applies whether the person is inside or outside.
However, Memorial Day parades have been canceled statewide, as a result of the coronavirus mandates to maintain social distancing. Traditionally on Memorial Day, cities and towns all over MA hold parades in honor of military personnel, who died on the field of battle. Flags fly at half-staff. Military planes streak by overhead. Folks gather in cemeteries to praise and pray for those who gave their lives for their country. Veterans hand out red handmade poppies to raise money for charity.
But this year, because of restrictions mandated by the coronavirus pandemic, public graveside gatherings and parades are canceled. Flags fly at half-staff not just on Memorial Day but every day, to remember those who have died of COVID-19. There will be no plane flyovers. The poppies are going virtual and socially distant. In addition, many of the aging veterans of long-ago wars, who are customarily the honored guests and chief mourners at their buddies’ graves, will most assuredly stay home to protect themselves from contagion.
This weekend, given the gradual lifting of the self-isolation phenomenon and the need to get the economy back on track, could and should be our opportunity to honor both the memories of our Fallen Heroes and the bravery of our First Responder and Front Line Heroes in a new and different way.
So how can we celebrate Memorial Day? There are ways to honor the fallen, and to help those who fought alongside them and survived, without gathering in large groups. So, do so in your own traditional and heartfelt way. But perhaps, it should be a weekend to take stock of ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, our leaders, and our communities, as we join together in a transformational war against an insidious and scary pandemic that is on the verge of altering the world order. It’s not called a pandemic for effect; it’s for real.
“Americans should commemorate the war dead and feel gratitude for the selfless service and sacrifice of these people, people of different beliefs and ideologies”, said Lorren Pogson, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We found this announcement from a neighboring state. The American Legion Auxiliary, which coordinates poppy distributions, has encouraged veterans to stay safe this year. National President Nicole Clapp and American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford released a joint statement:
“We understand it’s difficult this year for American Legion Family volunteers to distribute poppies as they normally would at storefronts and special events,” the statement read. “It’s important to know that the Legion and Auxiliary national organizations encourage distributions, but at the same time we also ask volunteers to heed local officials’ directives on social distancing.”
National Poppy Day is always the Friday before Memorial Day. The Legion suggested drive-by celebrations at American Legion posts on May 22, social-media sharing of American Legion videos and other safe alternatives. The Auxiliary National Headquarters also will present a virtual National Poppy Day event on May 22 at noon on Facebook.com/alaforveterans.