This year’s honoring of veterans and U.S. Armed Forces will be very different from years past.
That’s because Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order is still in place, meaning no parades, community barbecues of over 10 people or public ceremonies with gatherings of over 10 people across the state. The order lasts through May 29, which will include the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
The annual disbursement of flags to every veteran grave in the state has gone forward, but no large-scale public push for Monday has been planned, deliberately. Nelsonville American Legion Commander Kurt Nunnally told his post that there would be no services this year in the city following a call he made to the Governor’s Office and the State Veteran’s Association.
Other groups have limited the number of people invited to the ceremony, which will still occur. In New Marshfield, a small, private Memorial Day service will be held by the Gilham-Frank VFW Post 8804-3919.
Nine invited veterans and one vocalist will be at the event, and no more. Post 8804 is the only VFW in Southeastern Ohio that has for 73 years conducted an uninterrupted veterans grave site Memorial Day service year after year, a matter of great pride for the group. Post 8804 will also have a 21-gun salute at the end of the service.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic there will only be 10 individuals in the cemetery while the Memorial Day Service is being held.
“A VFW Ritual says that as long as two comrades are able, that our fallen war Hero’s and Patriots must be honored on Memorial Day,” said Kevin Martin, Gilham-Frank Commander, in a press release. “Causing potential COVID-19 infections with massive crowds is not on the plate of the Post thus we are having a very private, exclusive, somber, veterans-only event this year.”
Glouster American Legion, Burlingham Cemetery Association and Greenlawn Cemetery have all publicly announced cancellations of Memorial Day activities.
On Thursday, Bill Oxford, national commander of the American Legion, wrote to the nationwide website that it is important for those seeking to celebrate the nation’s veterans to find ways to reflect on those who paid the ultimate price.
“At The American Legion, we hope that you take some time to reflect the meaning of the day by lighting a candle of honor (#candlesofhonor), attending a virtual Memorial Day service or simply saying a prayer for our fallen heroes,” Oxford wrote. “But please remember to be safe. The coronavirus does not take holidays.”
The Athens American Legion Post 21 wrote to its Facebook page that it would be reopening Thursday, May 21, but social distancing rules would be observed. The group will also be holding a “bare bones” ceremony at the Union Street Cemetery. Keith Hall, a Post 21 member, said there will be a 21 gun salute, but not much else to this year’s ceremony in an attempt to limit social interaction.