Here’s How Memorial Day Will Be Observed at National and State Veterans Cemeteries

Jeff Thelusme visits a friend's grave on Veterans Day at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. They served in Afghanistan together. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Jeff Thelusme visits a friend's grave at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. They served in Afghanistan together. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

On May 13, the Department of Veteran Affairs announced it will commemorate Memorial Day this year with wreath-laying ceremonies at national cemeteries, as well as virtual remembrance events.

Most state veterans cemeteries have also announced plans for smaller public remembrances and virtual ceremonies to remember their fallen this year.

Many national veterans organizations, Scout troops and fraternal groups have announced plans to cancel the traditional placement of flags on the graves of individual veterans in both private and public cemeteries to comply with social distancing rules in their localities.

These actions come as the nation is slowly returning to normal, and mandatory restrictions on public gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic are being lifted.

As of this writing, Arlington National Cemetery, which is managed by the Army, remains closed to the public and no Memorial Day events there have been announced.

While the VA will conduct wreath-laying ceremonies at all national cemeteries, these ceremonies will not be open to the public. Several ceremonies will be livestreamed and shared on the VA's National Cemetery Administration's Facebook and Twitter pages.

"This year, by necessity, will be different from past Memorial Day observances," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "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."

All VA national cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk for public visitation. Visitors are asked to adhere to health and safety guidelines and maintain physical distancing while visiting; they are being urged to consider visiting Friday, Saturday or Sunday to avoid possible crowds on Memorial Day itself. Families will still be allowed to place personal remembrances such as flowers and small American flags at their veteran's gravesite.

Individual states have different plans to memorialize their fallen, such as Virginia's plan to televise and livestream virtual remembrance ceremonies or Nebraska's “largest Memorial Day observance with the fewest people present in the room” with Gold Star families participating.

Most state and private cemeteries will be open to family members this Memorial Day, check with your local authorities for more details.

Visit the website of your state Veterans Affairs Department for events particular to your location.

The VA will also permit online visitors to leave a comment or tribute on the online Veterans Legacy Memorial project, which remembers all veterans who rest in a national cemetery.

More details about the Veterans Legacy Memorial.

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