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Formal remembrances to pay respect to the men and women who served their country and observances to honor the military will be on hold this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing directives currently in place in Nevada.
The largest event in western Nevada normally attracts several thousand people to the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley. Every year, Memorial Day includes a number of speakers, bands and veterans.
Spokesman Tom Draughon said the 2018 observance at the NNVMC attracted about 3,000 people and the Operation Battle Born march with a number of volunteers and veterans who walked in increments from Boulder City to the veterans’ cemetery. Volunteers carried two rucksacks that contained almost 7,000 dog tags, including those of 57 Nevadans who have died since the United States was plunged into the Global War on Terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001.
Draughon said NNVMC remains open, but the Nevada Department of Veterans Services said the public may place flags or flowers at the gravesites or columbarium wall but must observe social distancing to protect themselves. In previous years, volunteers and the Nevada Veterans Coalition spent Saturday morning before Memorial Day placing thousands of United States flags at the gravesites.
Draughon said he still encourages visitors to come out to the NNVMC and pay their respects on Memorial Day. The NVDS also encourages the public to wear face coverings while at the state cemetery.
Churchill County military service organizations have conducted their annual remembrance services at the county cemetery, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe’s cemetery and The Gardens Funeral Home’s veterans’ section.
According to Mike Terry with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1002 in Fallon, no ceremony will be conducted at the three cemeteries. FPST Chairman Len George said the tribe’s cemetery will be open for friends and loved ones who want to decorate graves, and Loretta Guazzini, owner of The Gardens, said the gates will be open to the veterans’ section.
Previous ceremonies at the three cemeteries followed a specific protocol while each site presented a solemn observance with a rifle salute and the playing of taps.
Representatives of American Legion Post 16 and its auxiliary, Fleet Reserve Association Branch 192, the Marine Corps High Desert and VFW Post 1002 and its auxiliary offered words of remembrance and encouragement, and a representative from each group either placed flowers or a wreath at the edge of a memorial commemorating the fallen heroes.
At the Churchill County Cemetery on the day before Memorial Day, veterans’ service organizations and dozens of volunteers and family members from the community and Naval Air Station Fallon placed a U.S. flag at each service member’s grave. Instead, Terry said visitors have been asked individually to honor their loved ones or friends.
“Making this change was not a decision that we, or the lead veterans service organizations made lightly, and no one is more disappointed than the organizers of these events that they cannot cover the cemetery with flags as they have done in the past,” said NVDS director Kat Miller. “In the end, the safety of our veterans and their families made a modification necessary. Please do know, however, that you are welcome to visit and honor those who have earned our deepest respect as long as you can safely do so.”
The 70th annual Armed Forces Day parade and events associated with the observance was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing rules.
Each year, Hawthorne honors the men and women who serve in the military. Various veterans’ groups and organizations march in the parade, while some groups decorate a float.
The Mineral County Independent News reported in April that Armed Forces Day chairperson Gloria Lopez and the committee made the decision to cancel the event for safety reasons.
The MCIN said “Armed Forces Day was first observed on May 20, 1950 as a way to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches. It always falls on the third Saturday of May.”
For the first time since 2011, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall was scheduled to be in Hawthorne for the weekend. Lopez, however, said plans are being made to have the wall return for next year’s event.
A one-day Armed Forces Day celebration in Fallon was also canceled.