GRAFTON, W.Va. – Visitation at national cemeteries will be open throughout Memorial Day weekend, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has rules in place about appropriate practices amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Flags and flowers can be placed at gravesites. Public events have been canceled, including “mass placement and retrieval of gravesite flags by any groups.”
Director at the Grafton National Cemetery, Keith Barnes says the pandemic has forced them to scale celebrations back.
“We’re not going to have a public Memorial Day ceremony,” Barnes said,”Every cemetery around the country however, is going to have a small staff ceremony including a wreath laying.”
Cemetery staff will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony and will share images on social media.
“It’ll be at the Grafton National Cemetery Monday,” Barnes said,”But, it will just be brief remarks by myself, a wreath laying, a moment of silence and I found a bugler to play Taps.”
The West Virginia National Cemetery is located in Grafton.
“We encourage people to adhere to guidelines put out by the CDC,” Barnes said,”Smaller groups, social distancing is one of our concerns, but people are more than welcome to come in but spread over the weekend, not just Memorial Day.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Thursday the department should reconsider the policy.
“Laying wreaths and flags is an individual and solemn gesture that could be accommodated by using health and safety guidelines,” he said.