With Memorial Day just around the corner, honoring service members who paid the ultimate price could come with a new set of rules due to the novel coronavirus.
“We've always made Memorial Day a very big day,” Manny Martinez said.
It is a day he, his wife and whole family honor his son, Sgt. Michael Martinez, who died in combat in Iraq in 2007.
In 2014, Michael’s son Landon was presented with a flag during the Memorial Day Ceremony at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
And every year after the ceremony the family continues to pay tribute gathering around Michael's grave, says Martinez, “We sit there and pray and people get a chance to say whatever they like about Michael, what they remember about him.”
But Memorial Day will likely be very different for families like the Martinez family this year because of COVID-19.
The VA tells NBC 7 they are hoping things will get back to normal by that day -- but large ceremonies are unlikely.
A Veterans Affairs spokesman told NBC 7 in a statement:
“We look forward to resuming normal operations such as the Memorial Day ceremonies, however, it is too early to know whether large events can be held safely in late May. The National Cemetery Administration is continually monitoring guidance from the CDC and state and local officials to inform its decision on Memorial Day activities. Regardless of whether a cemetery holds a public ceremony, VA national cemeteries will observe Memorial Day in some fashion.”
Manny Martinez said he understands the need to be cautious, “It's a tough time at a time for a country, but I believe we're gonna come back strong.” And he, his wife and grandson Landon will mark the day together.
He said he hopes everyone will take a moment to remember service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“A moment of silence you know and respect of those individuals who gave their lives to the country I think would really do a lot,” he said.