Calverton National Cemetery suspends group flag placements

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It was announced this week that Calverton National Cemetery, a property of the National Cemetery Administration and reserved for our nation’s honored veterans and their dependents, will be suspending their tradition of allowing groups to place American flags at grave sites for Memorial Day “because of the health risks posed by the coronavirus”.

Calverton National Cemetery is located in Suffolk County, New York, on the eastern shore of Long Island.

The National Cemetery Administration issued this statement,  “NCA will not host any public Memorial Day events or ceremonies — including group placement of flags next to grave sites,” the statement read. “Traditionally these events are well attended and supported by the community. Unfortunately, hosting gatherings of these sizes is not advisable due to concerns about COVID-19.”

According to this article, this tradition of placing flags is popular among community organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and many veterans’ groups.  Last year, approximately 225,000 flags were placed at the cemetery’s graves.

The article does acknowledge that the cemetery is open for burials and visitations during the pandemic and will remain open on Memorial Day weekend where visitors may place flowers or small American flags at their loved one’s grave site.  Cemetery officials also acknowledged that some activities will take place their on Memorial Day such as a wreath-laying ceremony with the public encouraged to tune in virtually via a live stream on Facebook.

Funeral Director Daily take:  I really have mixed emotions over this prohibition.  On the one hand, as a mortician/funeral director I have been trained to understand public health and I understand the issues of social distancing and trying to do my part to stop the spread of COVID-19.  And, I understand it is my duty as an American to stop the spread of this disease.

On the other hand, however, I am an also an American who is extremely grateful for those who served their country in the military and the sacrifices they gave, including many giving the ultimate sacrifice, in defense of our freedom and way of life.  Growing up in my small community of under 30,000 population we were all made aware of those sacrifices, such as knowing that two of our own community members forever lay with their shipmates entombed in the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

Memorial Day for me means a short parade with our veterans at the center of the parade and being applauded as they walk by.  I don’t think I’ve missed one of these parades in my adult life. . . .and it means a visit to Kinkead Cemetery to pay respect to my ancestors who are buried there. . . from my mom and dad and brother all the way back to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother.  And, one of the highlights for me is seeing all of the flags planted on those graves of people who were willing to defend my freedom. . . they are put there by our veteran organizations with honor.

And, I won’t be disappointed this year as I checked in with the veteran in charge of this in my county and they are decorating Kinkead Cemetery and all the other cemeteries in our county just as they do every year.  Good for them.  He did say, however,  that they are using social distancing precautions by having only a couple of veterans do each cemetery instead of having the whole group move from cemetery to cemetery doing them all.

To my knowledge, at least at this point, it appears that this no flag decision is specific to Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.  That may be because of its proximity to areas of the coronavirus major outbreaks.  I hope the decision stays at that scope.

Memorial Day will be upon us soon, however, this weekend in America is Mother’s Day. . . . Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mom’s out there!!!

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