Memorial Day will be commemorated this year with solemn wreath-laying ceremonies, moments of silence, and the playing of "Taps" at National Cemeteries, but those tributes will not be open to the public, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Tuesday.
"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."
Loved ones will still be invited to visit National Cemeteries this Memorial Day, including Fort Rosecrans and Miramar National cemeteries in San Diego, to pay their respects with flags and flowers, as is tradition.
But visitors will be asked to adhere to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines by keeping social distance and utilizing facemasks. They will need to follow all federal, state, and local regulations while at the cemeteries.
In order to prevent large groups from congregating, the VA does encourage loved ones who traditionally pay their respects on Memorial Day to consider visiting on Saturday or Sunday this year.
The VA is also limiting staff contact with visitors to ensure the safety of both. That means, though, that staff will not be able to assist in locating gravesites. The Gravesite Locator Kiosk will also be closed for sanitary purposes. So instead, a gravesite locator website will be available through a mobile device. Scannable QR codes will be posted on signs throughout both cemeteries to help link the visitors to that site.
Those who cannot pay tribute to veterans in person were encouraged to utilize the Veterans Legacy Memorial website, which is set to launch of May 14. There, people can pay tribute this Memorial Day to service members and veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
All VA National Cemeteries will be open Memorial Day weekend from dawn to dusk.