News & Politics

Thanks, China. COVID-19 Kills an American Memorial Day Tradition

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The COVID-19 pandemic – thanks China – has just killed another American tradition for this year.

It’s bad enough that Fourth of July extravaganzas are being canceled. That the Hollywood Bowl is silent. The Pageant of the Masters is dark. Spring training – America’s pastime at its best! – canceled. Air shows are grounded. But this shutdown? Well, this Memorial Day’s cancelation is a damned gut punch.

The annual American tradition of placing flags on each American grave by Scout troops, veterans, and patriots at national cemeteries all across America has been canceled due to the Wuhan coronavirus.

And it’s “ridiculous,” as Congressman Jason Chaffetz put it.

Radio talker and Fox News personality Tammy Bruce called the move to stop the Boy Scouts from planting trees “completely irrational.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie made the call.

“This year, by necessity, will be different from past Memorial Day observances. 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.”

You Can Visit But Scouts Can’t Plant American Flags

The VA is asking cemetery visitors to mind social distancing rules and to spread out their visit over the weekend and not solely on Memorial Day. Families may place a flag on their loved one’s grave.

For Boy Scouts, this tradition is a highlight of the year. It’s a somber moment;  a chance for adults to impress on the fledglings how important love of America, sacrifice, and good citizenship is. To teach them that freedom isn’t free.

Depriving kids of being outside with little to no chance of contracting the coronavirus so they can conduct this act of selflessness seems a huge price to pay – and plain dumb to boot.

Radio personality and politician Jason Lewis put it well.

As we learn more about this virus, we must make decisions based on science, not fear. The Boy Scouts could safely conduct this outdoor event w/social distancing. Instead of just cancelling everything, it’s time to use American ingenuity to safely adapt.

The Veterans Affairs has set up an alternate, online way that Scouts can honor the dead on Memorial Day but it sounds as if it doesn’t require much from these kids.

Scouts across the country will build on the tradition of honoring our nation’s fallen heroes this Memorial Day by posting public tributes to our veterans in partnership with the National Cemetery Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

This effort will take place through the Veterans Legacy Memorial – a digital memorial that houses a profile for each of the 3.7 million veterans interred in one of more than 140 national cemeteries.  

The Boy Scouts CEO, Roger Mosby, a Navy veteran, said the virtual memorial at the VA is a great way to remember the fallen.

“Our Scouts learn the importance of duty to country and of honoring the people who served it through the values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. It is our privilege to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to show our gratitude to fallen service members who otherwise may not receive the attention they deserve during this trying time for our country.”

But lots of folks aren’t buying that. Suffolk County, New York County Executive, Steven Bellone, who oversees a county with one of those cemeteries, it makes little sense to stop the Scouts from planting the flags when it can be done with social distancing. He wrote on Facebook:

“One of the cruel ironies of this virus is that it is most viciously attacking members of the greatest generation at the very moment we are honoring the historic achievement that gave them their name. Since 1995, Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island has held an annual tradition of allowing local veterans groups and community organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America to place flags at its 225,000 grave sites to pay respect to our fallen heroes.”

He’s asking President Trump to cancel the ban on the Boy Scouts.

VA – National Cemeteries on Memorial Day Weekend

I know President Trump is very focused on re-opening our country. I want to reopen the VA — to allow groups to place flags at the grave sites in our national cemeteries. It should not be this difficult to honor our heroes and continue this tradition. If we can open our beaches in Suffolk County, then we can open our national cemeteries to this tradition on #MemorialDay weekend.

Posted by Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone on Monday, May 18, 2020

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