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Memorial Day celebrations usually involve parades, flag ceremonies, and other formal public recognitions to honor the brave men and women of the American Armed Forces who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. This includes those in the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing requirement is causing American cities and towns to cancel the beloved traditions and find new ways to honor their fallen heroes. Here are a few innovative festivities planned for the holiday, which will be observed on May 25, 2020.
The American Legion Post 184 in Wildwood, New Jersey, has partnered with the local police and fire department to stage a drive-by parade. On Sunday, May 24, 2020, the first responders will drive through the town and also pass by the homes of residents who have signed up to participate in the event. Locals can also enter a contest to create a patriotic scene around their home. The winner of the display, which will be judged by the police and firefighters, will win a $100 Visa gift card. Kids can also participate in the commemoration by downloading Memorial Day coloring pages and activities, which include a short paragraph outlining "What Patriotism Means To Me," from the veteran organization's website. Those that submit completed worksheets will receive a thank you note from a veteran and an American flag.
"The true meaning of Memorial Day is commonly forgotten," said Commander of Post 184 Harry Weimar. "We hope these learning opportunities and the parade experience will make everyone remember 'freedom isn't free,' especially the next generation."
The residents of Illinois's DuPage County will celebrate the occasion by sharing stories, photos, and memories to honor loved ones or friends on a new interactive website created by the officials. The site will also include poems, quotes, and videos, including one in which "Taps" — the melody used at military funerals and memorial services — is being performed at Arlington National Cemetery and another explaining the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument.
"While we may not be able to gather in person this year, we are united in our desire to honor DuPage men and women who gave their lives while serving as members of the US Armed Forces," said DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin.
Meanwhile, in Coronado, California, the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization plans to create a televised version of its popular Memorial Day tribute, held annually at the city's Star Park. The half-hour program, which will be aired on local television stations on May 25, 2020, will include clips from past Star Park presentations, as well as pay tribute to local military personnel who have died in the line of duty.
"We find ourselves in a strange and different time," said VFW Commander Chuck Lucas, who also serves annually as the Master-of-Ceremonies for Memorial Day events. "Thanks to the generosity of the City of Coronado, we will be able to continue this year in the age-old tradition of honoring our fallen warriors. We think the presentation will be enjoyed by an even larger audience, and we have been working hard with the very talented folks at City Hall to create what we hope will be a unique, memorable, and special tribute."
The Difference Between Memorial Day And Veterans Day
Though both Memorial Day and Veterans Day, which is celebrated annually on November 11, honor American military personnel, the holidays serve different purposes. While Memorial Day honors all US soldiers who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in combat, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American soldiers — both living and dead. Its primary purpose, however, is to thank living veterans for their service and sacrifices.
Memorial Day History
General John A. Logan organized the first national celebration to honor America's fallen heroes on May 30, 1868. The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic hoped "Decoration Day" would help improve the strained relations between the Northern and Southern states following the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Logan marked the occasion by placing American flags and flowers on the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Though the Northern states embraced the idea, residents of the Southern states continued to honor their fallen soldiers on different days. While they did adopt the holiday after it was extended to recognize the soldiers killed in World War I, many Southern states continue to celebrate Confederate Heroes Day on June 3, to pay tribute to the 258,000 Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.
In 1968, the US Congress declared, what was now known as Memorial Day, to be a federal holiday. The lawmakers also moved the date to the last Monday of May. While this allowed Americans to enjoy a three-day weekend, it also diminished the holiday's significance. Most people began regarding Memorial Day, as the unofficial start of summer and spent it firming vacation plans, attending or hosting barbecues, and lazing around pools. Retailers, meanwhile, took advantage of the holiday to boost their sales by offering significant discounts. Dismayed by the turn of events, US President Bill Clinton passed "The National Moment of Remembrance Act" in December 2000. The law urges Americans to honor all fallen heroes by observing a minute of silence at 3:00 pm (local time).
So this Memorial Day be sure to take a break from whatever fun activities you are engaged in to pay your respects to the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives to ensure your safety and freedom.
Happy Memorial Day!
Resources: wikipedia.org, coronadotimes.com, www.nj.com, abc7chicago.com