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Punchbowl, Kaneohe cemetery Memorial Day observances canceled due to coronavirus concerns

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  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2016
                                An overflow crowd at the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2016

    An overflow crowd at the Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl.

Annual Memorial Day observances Monday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, according to both cemeteries.

The Monday commemoration at Punchbowl would have been the 71st annual Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony.

A governor’s observance typically is held at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.

Last year, Punchbowl was awash in more than 35,000 small and large American flags as Memorial Day and the sacrifices made by American service members across the decades were observed.

The event occurred close to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

“Bookend” events were planned this year to remember Victory in Europe Day on May 8 with over 100 vintage warbirds flying over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 24 formations and a series of late-summer events centered around the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Japan surrendered to the allies on the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

The warbird flight tribute over the National Mall was rescheduled for Sept. 25 due to coronavirus concerns.

Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery said individuals can place flags and wreathes on gravesites Monday, but large-scale flag-placing efforts are not permitted.

The National Cemetery Administration, which oversees veteran cemeteries including Punchbowl, said it “is committed to observing Memorial Day 2020 in a manner that honors those who sacrificed for our nation while protecting the health and safety of visitors and our team members.”

It said that all 142 Veterans Affairs national cemeteries will be open for visitation throughout the Memorial Day weekend, with families welcome to place flowers or individual flags at gravesites.

The cemetery administration said it “made the difficult decision to not host public events for Memorial Day, including the mass placement and retrieval of gravesite flags by any groups.”

“NCA relies largely on volunteers for placement and retrieval of gravesite flags for Memorial Day and these activities attract thousands of volunteers annually. Limiting the number of volunteers is not practical. Cemetery staff will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to officially commemorate Memorial Day,” the administration said.

The public cannot attend due to health and safety concerns, it said, but photos will be shared on social media.

All Veterans Affairs national cemeteries remain open and continue to provide interment for veterans and eligible individuals during the COVID-19 crisis, the administration said.

As of April 15, to ensure social distancing, witnessing family members have been asked to view interments from their cars or the road very near their cars.

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