Memorial Day Amidst COVID-19

May 21, 2020

As the long Memorial Day weekend is quickly upon us, which unofficially marks the start of summer for many, we look forward to spending this national holiday in unusual circumstances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We are likely celebrating and gathering in smaller family and friend groups than in years past, as many continue to practice social distancing recommendations. Unfortunately, most public gatherings, such as parades and other remembrance events, have also been canceled this year.

Nonetheless, many organizations will host or make available virtual remembrances for those who still wish to be more actively involved in Memorial Day observations. There will still be a National Memorial Day Concert this year, broadcasted nationally on PBS, on Sunday evening. There will also be a state virtual ceremony hosted by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. The American Legion asks those who have lost loved ones while serving in the Armed Forces to share their names and stories of those you wish to honor and remember on Memorial Day, and it will broadcast those stories on its social media platforms on Memorial Day. Other remembrance services may be available through organizations in your local community. Many cemeteries, including veteran’s cemeteries, have remained open to visit and remember those we have lost.[1] Finally, the President annually lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will be live-streamed this year beginning at 8 a.m. local time.[2]

Memorial Day has been observed in different forms and on various dates since shortly after the U.S. Civil War ended, beginning in the latter half of the 1860s.[3] It was designated to be held on the last Monday in May under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act,[4] enacted in 1968 and effective in 1971. It was recodified in 1998 in the United States Code under Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies.[5] In 2000, Congress further recognized a national Moment of Remembrance, to be held annually by Presidential proclamation on Memorial Days, typically at 3:00 p.m. local time.[6] In that spirit, there will be a Moment of Silence held at the State Capitol at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, which will be broadcast on social media, including on Facebook.

This Memorial Day, as you may be getting together with (smaller) groups of family and friends or simply spending the day enjoying the freedoms and rights our veterans have fought and died to defend, please take a moment to reflect upon and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. As a U.S. Army veteran myself, I will be remembering some great friends and soldiers who I knew personally, as well as the many others whom I did not. From those of us at Axley, have a safe, happy, and peaceful Memorial Day.

[1] https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2020/05/18/memorial-day-observances-wisconsin-virtual-year/5196405002/

[2] https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Media/News/Post/10816/National-Memorial-Day-Observance

[3] https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

[4] Pub. L. 90–363, 82 Stat. 250, enacted June 28, 1968.

[5] 36 U.S.C. § 116 – Memorial Day (Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1257).

[6] National Moment of Remembrance Act, 36 U.S.C. § 116 (Pub. L. 106–579, Dec. 28, 2000, 114 Stat. 3078).