On Memorial Day, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum held its annual ceremony in order to honor all of those who have given their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Despite the uncharacteristic gloominess, the chilly and damp conditions didn’t hinder the Star-Spangled Banner from flying over the Hudson River or the droves of enlisted men and women from paying their respects to their peers.
This 2021 commemoration is a longstanding annual observance, and although many came to celebrate those who have lost their lives protecting the country, attendance was limited due to COVID-19 to about 200.
Looking out at the fleet of white chairs and thanking those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, speakers addressed the elephant in the room — the turbulent racial and political divide the country has faced over the last 15 months.
“As you know Memorial Day was enacted to honor soldiers of the Civil War and it was celebrated near the day of Reunification after the Civil War. Today, most importantly, Memorial Day is a time that brings us together when we find ourselves so greatly divided in so many different ways. Memorial Day brings us together to pause and to reflect,” Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Commander Charles Rock said.
Joining the ceremony, Mayor Bill de Blasio also spoke to the families and veterans in attendance. Like Commander Rock, de Blasio thanked those who have not only made the ultimate sacrifice against physical foes but also to the invisible virus.
Recounting the challenges New York faced over the past year, he cited the coming number of months as time to heal, unite, and leave the woes of the past behind.
“I hope on Memorial Day, we remember what was, and we remember the ideals of those who gave their lives, and then we recommit ourselves because in the end, everyone here has talked about the challenges we faced, but we cannot let those challenges overcome us,” de Blasio said. “We have to be better than that. The pandemic threw at us more than we ever could have imagined, but we did persevere, all of us, as New Yorkers, as Americans, we did persevere. We found something inside ourselves. Let’s find it now. As we bind our nation together, again, let’s find the unity that we felt in those moments, fighting COVID shoulder to shoulder and take it forward, create something better.”
Following the speeches, the mayor joined top Navy officials and members of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum by tossing a wreath into the Hudson River in memory of those lost during current conflicts. A gigantic, 100-foot American flag was unfurled in the shadow of the Intrepid aircraft carrier while a detail from the Joint Task Force Empire Shield fired three volleys, a traditional military salute, which was accompanied by the sounding of taps from the Navy Band Northeast.