Alabama Memorial Day ceremonies canceled, postponed or going online due to COVID-19

Alabama Memorial Day ceremonies canceled, postponed or going online due to COVID-19
Mobile National Cemetery was established in 1865 and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

It will be a different kind of Memorial Day for those who want to honor the men and women who died while defending the nation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still threatening, and the health risks of holding large gatherings continuing, many Memorial Day observances and ceremonies across the state have been canceled or postponed.

The Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation Board canceled its Memorial Day ceremony, held each year at the Alabama Veterans Memorial Park in Birmingham. Instead, the event will be incorporated into the organization’s Veterans Day ceremony scheduled for Nov. 8. Visitors can still tour the site from dawn till dusk daily but are asked to follow safe social distancing guidelines.

Memorial Day events also are canceled at American Village in Montevallo. The commemoration typically includes musical tributes, historical reenactments, wreath-laying ceremonies and special tours. American Village is home to the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor, housed in a building modeled after Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia.

The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort, in Baldwin County, was dedicated in 2012. (Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs)

At the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Spanish Fort, the traditional Memorial Day program is going virtual, with a pre-recorded ceremony scheduled to post on the cemetery’s Facebook page beginning at 11 a.m. Monday. The program will include a wreath-laying ceremony, folding of an American flag and a moment of silence followed by a rifle volley and the playing of taps by the U.S. Armed Force Honor Guard of Baldwin County. Cemetery staff will also place American flags at each veteran’s grave.

“We want to honor our fallen veterans during these challenging times while allowing the opportunity for family and friends to pay their respects,” said Bob Horton, assistant commissioner for the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.

He said while the Memorial Day program is not open to the public, the state veterans cemetery will be open for visitation. Also open for visitation are all 142 federal Veterans Affairs (VA) cemeteries nationwide. In Alabama, VA cemeteries are located in Montevallo, in the community of Fort Mitchell in Russell County and Mobile.

Fort Mitchell National Cemetery opened in 1987 and serves veterans residing in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

VA officials say certain areas of the cemeteries that are usually open to the public, such as public information centers and chapels, are closed because of the pandemic. Visitors should follow government health guidelines and maintain safe social distancing from those not in their immediate parties. The VA has canceled all Memorial Day weekend activities in which volunteer groups place or retrieve flags from gravesites – events that typically draw thousands of people to the cemeteries. All VA cemeteries will conduct a wreath-laying cemetery that will not be open to the public, although images from the events are expected to be posted on Facebook and other social media sites. Some cemeteries will live stream a Memorial Day ceremony, which will be posted here. Additional COVID-related information regarding federal cemeteries can be found at https://www.cem.va.gov/alerts.asp

The Jazz Ambassadors will pay tribute to our Greatest Generation in a virtual concert on May 24, 2020 at 1 p.m. eastern, noon central time  (U.S. Army)

One way people can recognize Memorial Day while staying safe at home is to tune in to a series of live online concerts by the U.S. Army Field Band. Memorial Day weekend concerts will take place at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon Sunday and Monday. The concerts can be viewed at https://www.armyfieldband.com/ and also on the Army Field Band YouTube and Facebook sites. Additional daily concerts are also being streamed on those sites every week at 6 p.m. central on Fridays and Saturdays and noon Sundays through Thursday. Archived streams also are available.

Also perfect for home viewing is the annual National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, which will be broadcast on Alabama Public Television on Sunday at 7 p.m. and repeated at 8:30 p.m. For local listing information, visit www.aptv.org.

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