Arlington Cemetery's Veterans Day Ceremony Will Be Closed to the Public

Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day
Visitors attend the National Veterans Day Observation in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 11, 2019. Vice President Mike Pence with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and spoke to the crowd in the Memorial Amphitheater as part of the observance. (Elizabeth Fraser/U.S. Army)

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the traditional Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to go virtual.

The plan is for some areas of the cemetery to open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 11 under strict social distancing and face mask guidelines, but the ceremony itself will be closed to the public, according to officials with the Military District of Washington.

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The cemetery reopened to the general public in September after a six-month shutdown, but the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the adjacent amphitheater, where the ceremony is held, remain off-limits.

The MDW, which has jurisdiction over the cemetery where more than 400,000 of the nation's heroes have been laid to rest, announced Wednesday that the 67th Veterans Day Observance at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 will be livestreamed.

During the ceremony, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, will conduct the Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the MDW said in a release.

It is not yet clear whether President Donald Trump will attend.

The Memorial Day wreath-laying last May was also a virtual event, but Trump participated and later made an address honoring the nation's veterans at historic Fort McHenry near Baltimore.

Previous Veterans Day ceremonies have attracted more than 5,000 visitors to witness the wreath-laying and an address in the cemetery's amphitheater, usually by the president.

The upcoming ceremony, to be hosted by Army Maj. Gen. Omar J. Jones, commanding general of Joint Task Force-National Capital Region and the MDW, will be modified "to practice physical distancing and to ensure the safety of all participants," the MDW said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

Related: Arlington National Cemetery's Most-Visited Gravesite Reopens to Public

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