The sound of silence filled the Memorial Day wreath-laying at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza War Memorial on Monday morning.
No crowds attended, as gatherings are being discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic — the city being the “epicenter of the crisis.” A normally expressive Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t make any speeches; he joined his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Veterans Affairs Commissioner James Hendon to lay wreaths to honor those lost in war protecting the country.
The ceremony was marked by “Taps” played by NYPD buglers and a Star-Spangled Banner rendition by Police Officer Rivera.
Members of the Marines, Army, NYPD, and the Veterans Alliance were on hand to show support for the ceremony and offer veterans their support during the COVID-19 crisis.
James Fitzgerald, deputy director of NYC Veterans Alliance, a grass-roots veterans support group, said his organization was present to show support for veterans and keep their memories alive.
“We have a handful of days throughout the year to honor our veterans and today is one of those days f0r those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Fitzgerald said. “So for me, who is also veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and we who are all soldiers personally, this day is very somber in its meaning even more so now that I have become a veteran and understand the importance of the day.”
“Because we only have so much that we can do for our veteran community, one of the ways we can show support is to have days like this that we can truly come together as a country and community to show our honor and appreciation for our country’s service members.”
Hendon said despite the lack of ceremonies, pomp, and circumstance normally displayed on Memorial Day, a show of support is always needed to show veterans and those that have been lost.
“We miss it, we keep one foot in front of the other for whatever is going on and do what we can to be of value to our service members and to those we lost, even in spite of this, we want them to know we have not forgotten about them,” Hendon said. “The biggest thing anyone can want is to be remembered. The veterans give so much of themselves for this country so we take time right now to make sure that we remember and for their families that we remember and keep them in our hearts.”
Many traditions on Memorial Day had been canceled including many parades around the city. Also, the traditional placing of flags at the graves of the soldiers who have died was canceled by many groups because of COVID-19. At Hillside National Cemetery in Queens, only two flags were set at the graves of the veterans, where in the past, every grave received a flag — a salute to their sacrifice.
In Cypress Hills National Cemetery, there were more flags, but only one or two per row of memorial stones. A few people walked among the memorials, some nearly two centuries old, one stone recalling the memory of a soldier who served at the Little Big Horn with General Custards 7th Calvary.
There, Orlando Encarnacion, 70, a veteran and Vietman and Gulf War in US Army, walked down the aisle of stones and saluted every few feet. “We must remember our veterans, that’s what I’m here to do,” he sighed.
American Legions and VFW’s held their Memorial Day observances, this one such was held by VFW Post 107. It took place in Gerritsen Beach on Burnett st. and Whitney Ave, where they have a stone memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers.