As coronavirus restrictions continue to ease, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) 155 national cemeteries will allow volunteers to place flags on graves to commemorate Memorial Day. Cemeteries will be open from dusk to dawn over the holiday weekend. Additional events and ceremonies, including wreath layings, will be streamed online.
"Memorial Day is a sacred day where we remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “We can never forget these heroes nor the families who continue to grieve the loss of their mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother who stood in the gap for each of us to maintain the very democracy that we are able to treasure every day."
Fully vaccinated cemetery employees, volunteers, honor guards and visitors are no longer required to wear masks while indoors, outdoors or during memorial services. Those who are not fully inoculated are asked to continue wearing a face mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid large crowds and consistently wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
All cemeteries with full staff will hold wreath-laying ceremonies followed by a moment of silence and the playing of taps throughout the weekend. However, these events will not be open to the public.
Those who wish to place flags on gravesites should contact their local national cemetery for further information.
Additionally, services for veterans and eligible family members who were interred without a committal service between March and June 2020 are now being scheduled and conducted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing a funeral assistance reimbursement program to help cover the costs of services for loved ones who died of COVID-19.