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‘A different Memorial Day:’ Group honors veterans in small ceremony, tribute video

MONTEVALLO – Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the format of countless events lately, it did not prevent residents on Memorial Day from paying tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery conducted a brief wreath-laying ceremony at the cemetery on Monday, May 25, in place of its traditional ceremony, which normally draws nearly 3,000 attendees and volunteers to the cemetery grounds.

“As we arrived at the Alabama National Cemetery this Memorial Day morning, we knew it would be a different Memorial Day,” SCALNC Chairwoman Pam Nichols said of the small group. “While the Avenue of Flags waved beautifully in the wind, the usual sight of a sea of flags exactly one foot in front of each white headstone was missing. And while we were sad, we understood what this pandemic has done to our everyday way of life.”

This year’s ceremony, which was videoed for sharing with the public immediately afterward, featured a flyover, prayer, national anthem, pledge, wreath laying by Gold Star Parents and Taps.

Nichols noted the absence of volunteers awaiting their assignments, youth groups prepared to place chairs for thousands of guests, and Patriot Guard or American Legion Riders ready to ride in with their flags waving.

“As we put up our chairs for the 12 or so people involved in today’s ceremony, we were hard pressed not to hug because that’s what Southerners do when they share a bond,” Nichols said. “In spite of it all, our small group was happy to be there to honor our nation’s fallen. And while our large crowd of ALNC families and patriotic community supporters were absent today, we felt your spirit right there with us.”

In addition to the small ceremony, the SCALNC developed and released a Memorial Day video tribute that tells the story of five people who were killed in the line of duty and are buried at the Alabama National Cemetery.

The tribute video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4EV7T8D1TU, and the wreath laying ceremony video is available at https://youtu.be/UmM2veIIZP4.

“To all of our Gold Star families, we sincerely hope that our remembrances bring you some comfort,” Nichols said. “We will not forget your loved one, and we will not forget your sacrifice. And, we pray that next year is back to our ‘normal.’”

All 142 VA national cemeteries were open for visitation throughout the Memorial Day weekend to allow families and friends to place flowers or individual flags at veterans’ gravesites, a National Cemetery Administration press release read.

Visitors were asked to adhere to Centers for Disease Control, state and local public health and safety guidelines.

“NCA made the difficult decision to not host public events for Memorial Day, including the mass placement and retrieval of gravesite flags by any groups,” the release read. “NCA relies largely on volunteers for placement and retrieval of gravesite flags for Memorial Day, and these activities attract thousands of volunteers annually. Limiting the number of volunteers is not practical.”

For more information about the SCALN and the group’s efforts to observe and honor veterans throughout the year, visit Scalnc.org or Facebook.com/scalnc.

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