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Memorial Day Ceremonies Are Few and Scaled Down

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 06:01
Morgan McGivern

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced that Memorial Day ceremonies can proceed in even light of Covid-19, with a maximum of 10 people taking part, but the federal Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a blanket policy nationwide prohibiting volunteers from decorating gravesites at national veterans cemeteries, as is the annual practice in many places.

The East Hampton Village ceremonies were officially canceled in April, and Brian Carabine of the Everit Albert Herter V.F.W. Post 550 in East Hampton said this week there were no plans to put one together at the last minute.

In Sag Harbor, there will be a modified version of the usual observation starting at 8:15 a.m. on Monday. 

According to David Pharaoh, the Sag Harbor American Legion commander, a small number of people will march from the World War I memorial at Otter Pond, making stops at significant places throughout the village on their way to Marine Park, where wreaths will be cast into the water. There will be a rifle squad and color guard, two fire trucks, a drummer, a trumpeter for taps, and a chaplain to say a brief prayer. 

No community groups or veterans will be allowed to march, Mr. Pharaoh said, but veterans will be able to observe the ceremony at Marine Park as long as they wear masks and maintaing social distances. “We will take every precaution possible,” he said. “Remember, this is still Memorial Day.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has sent letters to the V.A. requesting that it withdraw its national ban on decorating gravesites, which includes Calverton National Cemetery, and instead allow for local municipalities to make safe arrangements to do so.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has certified a plan in which a limited number of volunteers could place the flags at Calverton, following social distancing requirements, and Mr. Bellone said he hopes the plan is accepted by the Veterans Administration for Calverton Cemetery, where about 220,000 veterans and their spouses are buried. 

Mr. Bellone also said veterans’ graves will be decorated with flags at cemeteries in Suffolk other than Calverton, adding that the county is seeking donations of 7,000 small flags for that purpose.

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