Socially distant Memorial Day ceremonies were held across the region over Memorial Day weekend.
The National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil Township had several visitors who placed bouquets, wreaths and flags at the graves of loved ones and friends. The cemetery staff held a socially distant ceremony Sunday morning to honor the veterans buried there.
“Every day is Memorial Day here,” said Ed Hajduk, cemetery director.
While there was no public ceremony drawing the usual crowd of more than 1,000 people, the cemetery staff still gathered for a brief wreath laying service to “honor the patriots who were lost in battle throughout history.”
Hajduk thanked the National Cemetery Administration staff for participating in the service and for their recognition and appreciation of the sacrifice made by fallen veterans.
“Thank you for everything you do to make sure no veteran ever dies,” he said. “May God bless you, our service members and the United States of America.”
Aside from the cemetery “team members,” 80% of whom are veterans, Hajduk said, a few cemetery visitors listened to the service from a distance. Several media representatives also attended the ceremony, which included the playing of “Taps” and the national anthem.
Hajduk said the COVID-19 pandemic has “prevented us from paying tribute as we normally would.” He challenged Americans, while remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice, to also “reflect” on Americans who were victim to the COVID-19 virus.
“In addition, think about the health care workers who have risked their own lives to help their fellow citizens who have been afflicted with this devastating coronavirus,” Hajduk said. “This includes our own dedicated colleagues in the VA health care system.”
Hajduk referenced the Veterans Legacy Memorial, a website run by the National Cemetery Administration that’s used as an online memorial space. People can search for a loved one’s name and write tributes to them on the page. In a time of social distancing, Hajduk encouraged folks to visit the website this weekend.
“If you have a loved one or someone you served with or someone you admired who is buried in a national cemetery, take a moment this Memorial Day to pay tribute to him or her,” he said. “Let the world know what this person meant to you and to our nation.”
He also encouraged the community to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance, which is typically observed at 3 p.m. Memorial Day, with a moment of silence or the playing of “Taps.”
“This is one more way we can actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors and our friends who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Hajduk said. “Such is our obligation.”
That’s an obligation the Canonsburg VFW Post 191 took to heart Monday, as members spent the early morning hours in six different cemeteries paying their respects to fallen military personnel. By 8 a.m., Canonsburg Boy Scouts Troop 1305 had joined them at the middle school on College Street for a wreath presentation, a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
The Rev. Donald Austin prayed for those who died and those who grieve them. Richard Stewart, a member of the Strabane VFW 553, raised and lowered the flag.
They repeated the brief ceremony in front of the borough building, for which the borough fire department joined them. The group then drove to Oak Spring Cemetery, where they performed the service a third time.
Similarly, in Claysville and Monongahela, veteran organizations held brief and socially distant ceremonies Monday morning.