We’re living in a strange time when even the most seemingly mundane things can get 86’d as part of the coronavirus clampdown.
Apropos, one patriotic tradition’s been pushed out the window just in time for Memorial Day.
Monday, May 25th will mark the annual observance formerly known as Decoration Day, which commemorates our servicemen and women who’ve given their lives for their nation.
And traditionally, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have adorned veterans’ graves with American flags.
However, given the sci-fi film in which we’re all currently living, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs has barred at-site public events.
So no flags, because Safety First.
But some people are demanding that America’s heroes be honored.
Steve Bellone is an executive for Suffolk County, home to the Calverton and Long Island National Cemeteries. Those properties inter more veterans than any other military cemetery in the U.S., including Arlington — half a million, in fact.
And every year, Middle Island’s Boy Scout Troop 443 places thousands of flags at Calverton alone.
In Steve’s view — virus or not — if kids can’t pay tribute to those fallen among us, we’ve badly jumped the shark:
“If we can’t figure out a way to make sure we are placing flags at their graves to honor them, then something is seriously wrong.”
But, as told to Fox News, he’s optimistic — perhaps a new plan can be hatched:
“What we’re asking the VA to do is, rather than have a blanket policy across the country, allow the national cemeteries at the local level, to make this determination in conjunction with the local health department. We will take the responsibility to say that this flag placement plan meets the state and national guidelines but give us that opportunity to do it, allow us to honor our fallen heroes.”
18-year-old Eagle Scout Kieran Monaghan would like to be a part of it — he’s dressed hallowed ground with the Stars and Stripes for the past half-decade.
Kieran wants to continue honoring servicepeople — such as his Iraq vet father — who, unlike his dad, didn’t live to see home again:
“It’s definitely a very emotional, kind of moving experience. Personally, my Dad is a veteran. He was deployed in Iraq for a year. It’s good to be able to pay our respects to our fallen heroes, it’s important to me, it’s important to the Boy Scouts, it’s important to the community and it’s something that I would hate to see go.”
But the U.S. National Cemetery Administration, which operates the cemeteries, explained to Fox that we’re in the midst of a “national emergency.” Therefore, “VA national cemeteries will not be hosting public Memorial Day events.”
“Long Island has not yet met the state criteria for re-opening, which is why limits on social gatherings on Long Island are still in place.”
To be clear, individuals are still welcome to visit the cemeteries and leave flags in honor of family and friends; only mass placements are prohibited.
But Steve thinks the message being sent is an important one. Where are our priorities?
“We just commemorated VE Day, this is the generation that lived through the adversity of the great depression, they won World War Two. What is it going to say about our generation if we can’t figure out a way to honor the greatest generation by placing flags at their graves on Memorial Day?”
The break from tradition isn’t limited to New York. Fox notes that scout troops in Maryland, Missouri, and California, and Wisconsin have canceled their flag-planting plans.
It seems to me we’re approaching a breaking point — health officials are prescribing guidelines, and state officials are issuing edicts posed to help us continue living. But Americans want to get back to the purpose of living: life. And as we consider the precious nature of that greatest of all gifts, there is substantial reason to thank those who sacrificed theirs for our liberty.
Furthermore, I believe people are smart enough to figure a way to do so while maintaining whatever necessary protocols are in keeping with healthy practice.
I, for one, hope this Memorial Day, our service cemeteries appear as a sea of red, white, and blue. Because that’s who we are — in and out of crisis.
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