TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a day to come together and pay tribute to those who laid down their lives for our freedom, but this year, Memorial Day will be different.
Most major services in Tucson have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Every year we come together on Memorial Day. It’s the first time in a long time we haven’t,” said Anthony Crespo, the general manager of South Lawn Cemetery.
Crespo says calling off the service was tough, but the pandemic has taken its toll.
“It’s impacted the way we do business and how we grieve,” he said.
However, one thing hasn’t changed: Many feel strongly about the importance of honoring our fallen heroes.
So, several American Legion veterans will be at East Lawn Cemetery first thing Saturday morning, May 23, placing hundreds of flags on the graves of those who gave it all.
Officials expect volunteer numbers will be down this year, though, as many veterans fall under the “high-risk” category for the virus.
“I know the American Legion riders will be there because we feel being on a motorcycle, we are socially distant,” said Bill Wood, the post adjutant at American Legion Post 36. “We will definitely be keeping our space from each other.”
Saturday morning at South Lawn Cemetery, volunteers will also mark veteran graves with flags, while practicing physical distancing.
“We have over 4,000 veterans that lay in rest [here],” Crespo said.
Even without the usual crowds, South Lawn is getting creative. Staff hope to salvage some resemblance of a ceremony on Memorial Day.
“We will be live streaming the riffle salute that will take place at 9 o’clock,” Crespo said. “We will also read order No. 11.”
“[No matter what you do on Memorial Day,] absolutely pay respect,” he said. “We don’t want the veterans to be forgotten.”
East Lawn Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery and Fort Huachuca have also canceled their Memorial Day services.
You can watch South Lawn’s virtual ceremony on Facebook on Monday, May 25, at 9 a.m.
Fort Huachuca will also stream a virtual ceremony on Facebook, starting at 7 a.m.