The traditional Memorial Day parade has been canceled in Malden due to the coronavirus pandemic, but generations of residents who have served their country won’t be forgotten.
“This year will be different and there will not be any parades or ceremonies to show our gratitude and respect for their tremendous service to our great nation,” said Kevin Jarvis, the city’s director of veterans services. “However, the city of Malden and many other communities will honor our veterans in a different way to allow for social distancing and prevent the spread of a new enemy, COVID-19.”
Organizers have come up with creative and meaningful ways to honor veterans and their loved ones — from photography and video projects in Malden and Haverhill to a remotely televised ceremony in Milton.
Similar to the Front Steps Project, Malden residents have been photographed outside their homes holding a photograph, sign, craft, or other item that memorializes their deceased family member or loved one who served in the armed forces.
Photos submitted by Sunday, May 17, to email@example.com will be compiled into a video that will be shared on the city’s social media channels and Malden Access TV on Monday, May 25, which is Memorial Day. More information is available on the city’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cityofmalden.
On Memorial Day, residents are also invited to observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. as part of the National Moment of Remembrance, as well as display photos of loved ones along with an American flag during this special time.
Since World War I, more than 350 men and women from Malden have been killed while serving on active duty, with thousands more injured.
“Our veterans who know the horrors of war and worldwide suffering would want us to stay safe during this pandemic,” Jarvis said in an e-mail. “We will survive this situation to once again honor their memories in the traditional way, as Malden has done for many generations.”
Although the customary Memorial Day parade is canceled in Haverhill, VFW Lorraine Post 29 is asking residents to honor fallen heroes by decorating their homes in red, white, and blue, including simply displaying an American flag. In addition, flags will be lowered to half-staff at veteran memorials and City Hall, and flags will be placed at veterans’ graves in the city cemeteries as in past years.
Photos are also being collected for a memorial video called Haverhill’s Veterans Honor Roll, which will air on Memorial Day on the VFW Lorraine Post 29 website, the VFW’s and city’s social media channels, and HC Media. For inclusion, e-mail photos to VFW Post 29 commander Keith Gopsill at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, May 20.
“Memorial Day is important because so many of us know a veteran who has passed away,” said Donald Jarvis, VFW Lorraine Post 29′s junior vice commander, who offers a free “coffee” talk for veterans at 2 p.m. daily via Zoom, which can be accessed at www.coffeetalksessions.com. To join free 7:30 p.m. bingo sessions for veterans on Fridays and the community on Wednesdays, e-mail email@example.com.
“This day can’t be shortcutted and still deserves a high level of honor and respect,” Jarvis added. “Even though we’re apart, we’re together in paying tribute and showing appreciation. It’s the least we can do.”
In Milton, local officials are asking residents to stay home on Memorial Day and watch the annual town observance on cable television.
Unlike other nearby towns — Avon and Scituate, for example — Milton is not canceling its Memorial Day celebration to protect the public from the COVID-19 virus. But instead of taking place before the usual crowd of 150 to 300 people, the abbreviated ceremony at Milton Cemetery will take place on May 25 at 10 a.m. without an audience. It will be broadcast live on local cable.
In case of rain, the event will be televised live from the town’s Council of Aging building.
“The main focus is we will do our duty, regardless of the nature of our present situation, to honor our fallen who gave their all to give us our freedom,” said Kevin Cook, the town’s director of veterans services.
He said there will be “minimal participants, who will follow our state’s guidelines while ensuring that we are able to remember our fallen on this solemn day.
“We wanted to provide some semblance of normalcy — as much as this is not normal, and we won’t have a chorus or a band or a parade,” he said.
Plans call for short remarks from members of American Legion Post 114, the cemetery trustees, the Select Board, and the state Senate. Detective Rory Lockowitz, a Navy veteran and Medford police officer, will deliver the main address.
And the names of all recently deceased veterans will be read — a list that Cook said has been steadily growing as veterans age, and is likely to get even longer with the COVID-19 virus proving most lethal for the oldest in our society.
“We were losing hundreds [of veterans] a day, even before this COVID,” Cook said. “Unfortunately, [the virus pandemic will] accelerate that. Anyone who is a World War II veteran is in their 90s. Korean War vets are in their 80s, Vietnam vets are in their 70s or older.”
Cook said that volunteers — individually or in groups of two and wearing masks and gloves — have been placing flags on the more than 1,800 veterans’ graves in Milton’s cemeteries to get ready for Memorial Day.
“Regardless of what is going on, Memorial Day is a solemn obligation,” he said.