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In a bizarre decision that seems ignorant of the known ‘science’ surrounding COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is banning Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from engaging in their longstanding practice of placing American flags at veterans’ gravesites on Memorial Day due to the ongoing pandemic.
For decades, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and other civil-minded organizations have placed flags to honor American men and women who have given their lives in service of our country. But this year, VA officials who ought to know better are barring the tradition after having banned all public events at gravesites, Fox News reported.
That said, there are already calls for the VA to rescind its ban, at least for Memorial Day, and allow Scouts and other groups to pay their respects to our country’s fallen war heroes. That includes officials on Long Island, N.Y., where more than a half-million veterans are buried at a pair of national military cemeteries.
“If we can’t figure out a way to make sure we are placing flags at their graves to honor them, then something is seriously wrong,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
The county is home to the “sprawling Calverton and Long Island National Cemeteries, which hold more veterans than any other military cemetery in the nation, including Arlington National Cemetery,” Fox News added.
The county exec says he and others can figure out ways to keep the Scouts safe, especially considering what is already known about mitigating the virus and the age groups it mostly effects (which, by far, is mostly older adults and people with preexisting underlying medical conditions).
“What we’re asking the VA to do is, rather than have a blanket policy across the country, allow the national cemeteries at the local level, to make this determination in conjunction with the local health department,” Bellone told Fox News. “We will take the responsibility to say that this flag placement plan meets the state and national guidelines but give us that opportunity to do it, allow us to honor our fallen heroes.”
Each year, Boy Scout Troop 443 from Middle Island, N.Y., places thousands of flags at the two Suffolk County military burial sites.
For each of the last five years, Kieran Monaghan, 18, an Eagle Scout, has been one of the many Scouts who have participated in the solemn, respectful practice of placing American flags near headstones of the fallen.
He believes that his troop can safely carry out their mission this year, despite the presence of coronavirus. But they just need the opportunity to do so.
“It’s definitely a very emotional, kind of moving experience. Personally, my Dad is a veteran,” Monaghan told Fox News. “He was deployed in Iraq for a year. It’s good to be able to pay our respects to our fallen heroes, it’s important to me, it’s important to the Boy Scouts, it’s important to the community and it’s something that I would hate to see go.”
The federal agency within the VA that operates and manages military gravesites, the U.S. National Cemetery Administration, told the network that because of the existing “national emergency, VA national cemeteries will not be hosting public “Memorial Day events,” which of course includes “mass placement of gravesite flags.”
Memorial Day is May 25.
In a statement to Fox News, the agency noted that regarding the Suffolk County sites, “Long Island has not yet met the state criteria for re-opening, which is why limits on social gatherings on Long Island are still in place.”
The agency further noted that “families and community members are welcome to visit national cemeteries throughout Memorial Day weekend and place individual flags on graves to honor friends and family. We ask that all visitors adhere to CDC, state and local health, safety, and travel guidelines.”
While understanding the nature of the ban, Monaghan said he believes the flag placement can still be done in a safe manner per CDC distancing and other mitigation recommendations.
“It is understandable to a point, but I don’t think that it is unreasonable to be able to put a plan together to be able to still accomplish the same thing we have done year after year, still following social distancing guidelines, having everybody masked up, with gloves on. It’s definitely doable,” he added.
Bellone noted further, “We just commemorated VE Day, this is the generation that lived through the adversity of the great depression, they won World War Two. What is it going to say about our generation if we can’t figure out a way to honor the greatest generation by placing flags at their graves on Memorial Day?”
According to what we know about coronavirus and its infectious nature, young people are not nearly as at-risk of contracting the disease, let alone die from it.
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