With many large-scaled services for Memorial Day canceled this year, organizers say there are still ways to honor fallen heroes.
Typically, an hour-long program is held at the DFW National Cemetery in Dallas in observance of Memorial Day. Assistant cemetery director Doug Maddox said last year, the event drew a crowd of almost 10,000 people.
“Especially with this year being our 20th anniversary, it’s really out of character for us to not have an event like this,” Maddox told NBC 5 Friday.
“I think everybody understands the circumstances we’re under. It’s not by our choice that we have to cancel our program. We just have to abide by what’s been set forth as far as our guidelines.”
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This year, there will be a private wreath-laying ceremony at the national cemetery. It will be streamed online.
However, Maddox said families are still welcome to pay their respects.
“We are open every day of the year, especially Memorial Day Weekend. We are open from sunrise to sunset. We encourage families to visit their loved ones,” he said.
“Bring flowers, bring flags if they wish to place that. Along as everyone is maintaining the physical distancing and all the proper precautions that are set forth, we would love to have you visit.”
John Ott, a spokesperson for the Mount Olivet Memorial Day Service, said canceled services does not mean the message of the day should be lost. A private service including city, county, and federal elected officials will be held Monday evening – the first non-public service in their 91 years of history.
“We’ll have a bugler that will sound a bugle call at 6:06 p.m. That’s important, because that corresponds with June 6, 1944. D-Day, the day that we lost more people in combat battle than we’ve ever lost in battle as a nation,” Ott said.
“You can understand people that feel the loss right now because when we’re held hostage by a little bitty thing that we can’t see, we feel powerless in some ways, but that’s not the case. I think people can demonstrate their own patriotism and just remembering what this day is for and share memories with the younger folks. One of the problems that we have is that we’re not teaching people the meaning of Memorial Day.”
Ott said another way the public can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice is by displaying flags.
“If there’s anything that fought for in all the wars we’ve ever had, it was represented in the flag,” he said. “So what we’re asking people to do all over this city, all over the county, all over the state, all over the nation – is to put out a flag. Put out an American flag in remembrance of those who died defending that flag.”
For the past several years, there’s at least one person that always come to Royce Carnley’s mind on the last Monday of May. Carnley of Justin, Texas served in the U.S. Army as a specialist.
“Now that I have a wife and kids of my own, now you think of the families that got left behind,” Carnley said.
“Luckily, we didn’t have anybody in platoon or in our company that got left behind but we did have one guy in our battalion, Captain James Nehl. He did succumb enemy sniper fire and it hits home for me, because he had a wife and a young kid too.”
Carnley served in the U.S. Army between 2010 and 2014.
“I went in 2010 and got sent to my unit in Fort Riley, Kansas. I was lucky enough to go through sniper school, which is the one school Army had that I wanted to go through and deployed to Afghanistan shortly after that in 2012.”
Carnley said he typically volunteers and helps at events organized on Memorial Day and encourages people to get involved from home this year.
“One of the easiest ways is to find an organization like Support Our Soldiers. Contact them,” he said.
“Support Our Soldiers does a great job. They send our cards letting people know they care.”
Officials with the DFW National Cemetery said their wreath-laying ceremony Monday will be available to watch online through the VA North Texas Health Care System page on Facebook.