The Pandemic Is Still Changing What Memorial Day Tributes Will Look Like This Year

May 29, 2021
Mrk Stallins,Fort Logan National CemeteryMrk Stallins,Fort Logan National CemeteryDavid Zalubowsk/AP Photo
Playing a tribute to veterans at gravesites to mark the Memorial Day holiday, retired U.S. Navy yeoman Mark Stallins of Denver performs in Fort Logan National Cemetery on Sunday, May 28, 2017, in southwest Denver.

For the second year, tributes to fallen American service members will look different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Regrettably, we don't have the traditional ceremony that is customary here at Fort Logan National Cemetery,” said David Roberts, acting director of the burial ground. 

In non-pandemic years, the cemetery, which was established in 1887, hosts thousands of people along with bands, speakers and a fly over on Memorial Day. 

“It's a pretty wonderful celebration,” Roberts said. “It's really disappointing to not be able to have that for a second year in a row, but it looks like we are moving in the right direction.” 

One special ceremony is coming back this year though — the mass grave site flag placement. Hundreds of volunteers will place a flag on each of the more than 105,000 graves in the National Cemetery on Sunday. Roberts encourages people to come and visit the cemetery over the weekend and the coming week. The flags will be taken down on June 5. 

“It can be pretty impactful to come out and see every grave site with a flag,” Roberts said. 

In Colorado Springs, the annual Memorial Day Run & March will have limited capacity, but will host its signature 30k ruck march, as well as a 5k and 10k race. Veterans and their families and friends will carry backpacks full of food for the 30k march. At the end they’ll dump their bags and donate the food to veterans experiencing homelessness across the state. Each year, about 40,000 pounds of food are donated. 

“It's a day for me to give back. Anyone who's been in combat and survived and friends who have not, they feel that sense of service where they need to give back,” said Rob Bingham, executive director of the Colorado Veteran’s Project. “Hosting this event allows me the opportunity to give back to those, to really reflect and remember those that I care about who passed away.”

Bingham has been in the military for 18 years as a helicopter pilot in the Army. He also works full-time for the VA. Five weeks ago he said he didn’t know if his event would happen at all. Last year the event was capped at 10 percent capacity, which was 150 people. He’s happy that this year the race is capped at 50 percent capacity or around 750 people. 

The Colorado National Guard will conduct Memorial Day flyovers from 10 a.m. to noon, over Parker Cemetery, Grand Junction, and Silverton, Colorado. 

"As you hear the roar of freedom rip across the Colorado skies this weekend, I ask that you take a moment to remember the men and women who courageously gave their lives in service to our country,” said 140th Wing Commander and U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Fesler in a statement. “Remember their names, remember their stories, and most of all remember their sacrifices."

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