JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The coronavirus outbreak is changing how people commemorate Memorial Day, but there are still plenty of events honoring our nation’s fallen heroes.
The city of Jacksonville posted a video of its Memorial Day service rather than have people gather at the memorial wall for its annual ceremony.
“As our city and communities throughout America work to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must still pause and reflect on those who lost their lives in service to our nation. Jacksonville will never forget their sacrifice," said Mayor Lenny Curry, who was one of the speakers in the video, along with musical selections from the Jacksonville Voices, Jacksonville Pipes & Drums and Navy Band Southeast.
When it is appropriate and safe, the city will be encouraged Gold Star families, veterans and citizens to visit the wall and remember the 1,700 military men and women whose names are inscribed upon it.
Dozens of people wearing red, white and blue attended a ceremony Monday morning put on by American Legion Post 129 at Beaches Veterans Memorial Park on West 1st Street.
Speakers urged attendees to remember the importance of Memorial Day and reflect on what was and what’s to come.
“These men and women that we honor today, they lived well. And so I think this is about promises made and promises kept," said U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville. "These men and women have been promised that we would never forget and we never will.”
It was acknowledged that things are different this year because of the pandemic, but the commitment to those who served is not diminished.
“It’s all on social media now that you see everybody just throughout the whole country is behind the veterans and just honoring the veterans, no matter where they are," American Legion Post 129 Cmdr. Joe Miachle said.
While today’s events may look different due to the pandemic, it didn’t stop people from taking the time to honor those men and women who died protecting this country. Families attending the ceremony and say these lessons need to be taught to their children.
“To honor those fallen and those that didn’t make it home ... and to teach the children freedom isn’t free," said a father attending with their two daughters. “That’s the cost of bravery, right?”
The uninvited guest to our shores that is the focus of the nation’s current battle, along with those who are the front lines, were acknowledged.
“Even when the enemy is an invisible virus or a microscopic germ, the sacrifices made are just as meaningful," Clarence Hill, president of Beaches Veterans Memorial Park Inc, told those gathered. "(The) U.S. military has already lost service members to COVID-19. We want to be there for their families. Long after the battlefield guns have silenced and the bombs stop exploding the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent. Spouses will continue to miss their life partners. Parents will never stop grieving for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early. We need to be there for them.”
In Nassau County, the Marine Corps League hosted this year’s Fernandina Beach Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Monument in downtown Fernandina.
The city decided to go on with the service at the downtown Veteran’s Memorial Monument despite coronavirus concerns. Anyone attending was to wear masks and maintain proper social distancing.
“I was so encouraged to see so many people show up for it,” said Alexandra Lajoux, who waved her flag at the ceremony.
In Middleburg, the American Legion Post is hosting a parade to honor a 94-year-old World War Two veteran. Post members and others will be meeting at 1 p.m. at Post 250 and drive down to Green Cove Springs for the surprise, drive-by parade.
Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties
A group of local pilots called “Dreamland Squadron” was planning a midday Memorial Day formation flight over areas of Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties, but had to scrub the mission after getting a late-morning weather briefing.