Families are now barred from attending all four Defense Department branches' boot camp graduation ceremonies as the country grapples with new coronavirus fears.
The Marine Corps announced on Thursday that it would join the Navy and Air Force in closing its graduation ceremonies to the public. The new rules apply to both the East and West coast recruit training bases -- Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
No end date was given on when the ban will lift.
"We understand the significance of this event to Marines and their families, but we must remain cautious and focused on public safety," a Facebook post announcing the change at Parris Island states.
The Army was the last of the four Defense Department services to announce it would no longer allow attendees at boot camp ceremonies. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Center for Initial Military Training decided Thursday afternoon that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, posed too high a risk at new soldiers' graduations.
"In order to protect the health of soldiers, civilians and their families, the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, has cancelled all graduation ceremonies and associated events across Initial Military Training, beginning March 13, 2020," Meg Reed, spokesman for the center, said in a statement.
The Marine Corps and Army have also canceled Family Day celebrations on entry-level training bases leading up to the ceremonies.
Both Marine Corps' recruit depots have graduation ceremonies scheduled for Friday. Parris Island canceled its ceremony, according to the base's Facebook post. The one in San Diego will still proceed without an audience. That ceremony will be recorded and shown online.
"We apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your frustration," MCRD San Diego's Facebook page states. "There are no cases of COVID-19 here at MCRD San Diego, and we must remain cautious and focused on the public's safety while continuing to Make Marines."
Entry-level training across the Army and Marine Corps continues.
"The health and safety of our Army family is our main priority, and our leadership will continue to take decisive measures to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and adhere to the guidance outlined by the Center for Disease Control, and the Defense Health Agency," Reed said.
The decisions follow the Navy and Air Force's decisions earlier this week to stop public recruit training graduations. Those services also canceled liberty for new sailors and airmen, meaning they are no longer allowed to go home after completing boot camp. Instead, new graduates are required to report to their next schoolhouse or other assignments directly after graduation.
Marine recruits at both depots are still allowed to take liberty, according to the depots' Facebook pages.
The new restrictions on graduations follow new sweeping travel restrictions on military personnel. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the changes on Wednesday night, after President Donald Trump briefed the nation from the Oval Office on the ongoing threats surrounding the coronavirus.
The virus has continued to spread in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Countries such as Italy have imposed severe restrictions on its entire population after the virus quickly spread throughout that country.
During his address, Trump announced he would block Europeans from entering the U.S. to help slow the spread of the sometimes-fatal virus. Esper later announced a 60-day ban on travel to all countries where the virus remains widespread, including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.