Among the barbecues and picnics this weekend, it’s above all else a time for reflection.
Pat Lee and Joe Kannapell are two of the 10 Dreamland Squadron pilots, a group made up of mostly Navy and Air Force veterans. The squadron decided to also dedicate Monday’s flyover to health care workers in a salute to those at the forefront of the COVID-19 response.
“As we come out of this I think it’s time to salute all the people that have worked so hard, sacrificed, risked their lives and their families health to keep us all healthy," said Lee, a retired captain from the Navy.
Memorial Day is even more somber this year, as veterans continue to die from the virus.
They are older, have underlying health problems and many live in places that are breeding grounds for disease.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 1,000 veterans have been killed by the coronavirus.
That does not include hundreds more who have died in state-run veterans’ homes.
“We know that there have been some very difficult times at some of the extended permanent residences, permanent care facilities that have taken care of veterans and it’s been a very difficult time for some of those operation," said Kannapell, also a retired captain from the Navy.
But even amongst the solemness of the holiday weekend, Kannapell believes Americans will continue pushing forward.
“Despite the troubles of the day with the COVID-19 I think people in our country relish our flag and they relish the concept of patriotism and it’s a day to unify ourselves and think about something about the greater good that these people, our veterans have given," Kannapell said.
Safety is the squadron’s No. 1 priority for the flyover, so after getting a late-morning weather briefing, the pilots had to scrub their mission.
They had planned to launch from Haller Airpark in Green Cove Springs at 11:40 a.m. and make their way up to Cecil Field, then the Jacksonville National Cemetery. From there, they would have passed various hospitals around downtown, fly east to Mayo Clinic, then down to Green Cove Springs before ending at the St. Augustine Veterans Memorial.