Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general of Army Materiel Command will address the community by video for this year’s annual Memorial Day Commemoration on May 31.
The event change is one of many that have occurred in recent months resulting from COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control recommendations for social distancing to fight the spread of the disease. In light of the pandemic, this year community organizers want to also remember those who have died on the frontlines of COVID-19.
“Memorial Day is for the military,” said Max Bennett, of the Association of the United States Army, who also serves on the committee for the annual Huntsville event. “But this year, we want to add a new twist and make sure we honor those in uniform who may not be in the military, but who are sacrificing and risking their lives for our country right now.”
That list includes doctors, nurses, paramedic, police officers and firefighters, along with others who perform essential duties in the community.
“Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died or given their lives for America and it’s important that we remember them,” Bennett said. “In light of what’s happening in our country right now, we want to honor all of those who are doing that.”
The annual Memorial Day service that traditionally includes Redstone Arsenal leaders, along with Huntsville, Madison and Madison County communities, the AUSA, and all veterans service organizations will happen in an abbreviated format this year, said Kelly Schrimsher, communications director for the City of Huntsville. A video, which will be emceed by Mayor Tommy Battle, is being produced to capture the wreath laying ceremony, Gen. Perna’s keynote address, and music.
The video will be about 15 minutes long, about a quarter of our normal ceremony, said Beverly Lowe, who co-chairs the committee with Bennett. “Our goal is to capture the essence of Memorial Day.”
She said it will open with the pledge and a prayer. Three wreaths will be laid at the Veterans Memorial, including the city wreath, one from the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organization Coalition, and a Gold Star Family wreath.
This year’s Gold Star Family will include the family of Brian Woeber, who died in a 2017 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash in the Pacific Ocean. His wife, Lori, and their sons, Jacob, Nathan, Owen will participate, Lowe said.
The video will be made available on the city’s TV channel and its website through its On Demand Library and social media platforms. More information about the video will be announced closer to Memorial Day, she said.
The decision to change the event this year was made because of public gathering restrictions at the time for the overall health and safety of the community, Bennett said.
There’s still a way for people to actively participate in Memorial Day by observing a moment of silence for the country’s fallen heroes at 3 p.m.
A National Moment of Remembrance was established to ensure future generations know about the real meaning of the holiday following a 1996 survey which showed children recognized Memorial Day as a time for weekend parties and cookouts. The survey was conducted by a humanitarian organization, No Greater Love, based in Washington, D.C., according to its website, thememorialdaytribute.com.
The website claims its survey was behind the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000.
The act calls for Americans to pause and observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember the men and women who have died in pursuit of freedom and peace for the U.S.
Memorial Day is a longstanding U.S. tradition, which started after the Civil War as families from both sides mourned fallen soldiers.
By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to countless fallen soldiers from the Civil War, according to the History.com website. Mourners decorated graves with flowers each year on what became known as Decoration Day.
During World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For decades, Memorial Day was on May 30. However, 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.