RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For the first time in 64 years, The Virginia War Memorial paid tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice without an audience. Normally the memorial’s amphitheater would be packed with veterans, local leaders and citizens wanting to pay their respects but with the shelter at home order still in effect, this year’s Memorial Day ceremony played out virtually.
The ceremony was livestreamed so people across the commonwealth could honor Virginia’s fallen heroes safely from their homes. The event began with a pre-taped message from Governor Ralph Northam.
“Although we are practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 we are united in our hearts in remembering our fallen,” said Northam.
A few onlookers watched from a good distance away. For the ceremony, there was just a handful of veterans and staff in place like Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle.
“Normally we have thousands of visitors to the War Memorial on this day and music, guest speakers and a paraded of wreaths placed by scores of veterans service organizations and civic groups. But these are not normal times,” said Mountcastle.
Still, he and his crew were determined to make sure no one is forgotten this Memorial Day. He told 8News, “Even with so much in the world right now, kind of all of our lives have been turned upside down. It was still great to be able to hit the true meaning to of the day and to honor those that make our daily lives possible.”
Inside the Shrine of Memory, a bell tolled for Staff Sergeant Ian McLaughlin. The Virginian was killed in January in Afghanistan. A wreath was also placed for the 12,000 Virginians listed in the Shrine. They are the names of Virginians who gave their lives for our freedom.
“Memorial Day is about acknowledging these lives,” said Mountcastle.
Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins says today is personal for him, both his grandfather and father served in the army. He told 8News he is proud of the event the Virginia Department of Veterans Services put on in such unusual times.
“The flexibility that they showed, the resilience in making sure that Virginians across the commonwealth are able to still honor and commemorate our fallen,” Hopkins said.
Anyone who wants to leave a wreath at the memorial can do so privately between now and Friday.
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