Early this month, I took a stroll with my 11-month-old daughter around the Marine Corps Memorial and by Arlington Cemetery. Inside the cemetery, I saw a group of soldiers carrying the coffin of their comrade as the family followed at a distance. I stood and saluted as I caught a glimpse of a social distancing burial during the coronavirus crisis.
The soldiers could not maintain six feet of distance while bearing his coffin, but they did wear masks. You can catch a glimpse of the masks in the video.
The men side-stepped as they marched bearing their fallen brother. The bereaved family members, also wearing masks and dressed in black for mourning, followed at a distance.
This fallen hero’s family happened to be black. This burial should serve as a reminder that even when the U.S. military was segregated for decades, black Americans fought and died for this country. Thankfully, President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the military and even before the civil rights movement, America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines had cultivated a measure of racial equality so that Colin Powell called the racially-integrated bases of the segregated 1960s “healthy cells in an otherwise sick body.”
The scene also reminded me that even amidst lockdowns in a pandemic, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom are passing away. It is tragic that their burials have to follow social distancing, but it is also heartening that no pandemic stops the U.S. military from honoring our country’s heroes.
There is perhaps no better time to witness such a burial than Memorial Day. Watch my video of the social distancing burial below.
Social distancing burial
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.