A different kind of Memorial Day in a different world

The outbreak of the coronavirus has forced many changes across the globe since last December — from the shutting down of whole economies to the closures of schools and universities to the cancellations of sporting events and concerts. In the United States, it has also impacted some time-honored traditions, like the commemoration of Memorial Day, which this year falls on Monday, May 25.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor the lives of the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. And while many Americans see the holiday as the unofficial start of the summer season, throughout the country — and certainly in the Harlem Valley — there remains the tradition of hometown parades and ceremonies and local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) grave-side commemorations and memorials to mourn the dead of our Armed Forces. 

This year, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those ceremonies have been canceled, or altered dramatically. Some groups, like the Millerton American Legion Post 178, decided to hold virtual ceremonies to keep Legionnaires and community members protected. It was tough to make the decision to change long-standing traditions, said Post Historian Sean Klay, but safety concerns were paramount.

As noted by Post 178, “This year we are NOT inviting the public to participate in person during our observances, however the Post does invite the public to participate virtually via both Facebook and YouTube. We will be posting the information to join us later this week on our website at www.legionpost178.org as well on our Twitter and Facebook pages.”

Only members of the Post, Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion organizations will be able to participate in the Millerton Legion’s Memorial Day exercises this year. Anyone with question should email postcommander@legionpost178.org.

“I think everybody is disappointed, but circumstances kind of dictated what can and can’t be done,” Klay acknowledged. “Prudence and caution are kind of the order of the day.”

Meanwhile, in Pine Plains, both its American Legion Post 426 along with its VFW Post 5519 have posted on Facebook they will not be holding Memorial Day services this year due to the  health crisis.

“The health and safety of all our members must continue to be our top priority,” they stated, adding, “We ask the community to never forget the sacrifices made by our veterans. Please keep them in your thoughts during these difficult times.”

And that’s what’s important here: That we always remember the bravery, the resoluteness, the integrity and the righteousness of heroes no longer with us. It’s at times like these — when the world is struggling with a common enemy — that we realize just how much those valiant soldiers, many of whom died on the battlefield, sacrificed, so that we may remain safe and free. 

Today our military continues to protect us — in ways we see and in ways we don’t. We must always pay due respect to those who have served and to those who continue to serve, for their willingness to put their lives on the line, like those who came before them. So, this year, even if there won’t be a Memorial Day ceremony at Fountain Square in Amenia or a commemoration at the Village Green in Millbrook, take time to remember and grieve those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could all live in what is inarguably the greatest nation in the world. Please, don’t let Memorial Day slip by unnoticed.

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