WINCHESTER — Neither the coronavirus nor rainy weather prevented local veterans from honoring the service and sacrifice of those who served in the armed forces on Friday.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Culpeper National Cemetery Complex held a solemn Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony Friday morning at Winchester National Cemetery off National Avenue.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the service was not open to the public. About 20 people participated including members of the National Cemetery Administration, the American Red Cross, VFW Chapter 2123, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Community Veterans Engagement Board, Heroes on the River and the Col. James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The participants wore masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are really grateful that they are taking the time today to join us while our public ceremony is limited,” said Leslie Caliva, a community volunteer leader for the American Red Cross. “It is important to us, and the cemetery and all of our groups that we pay proper respect and honor those who gave all for our country.”
The ceremony included brief remarks, a moment of silence and the playing of taps. There are more than 5,000 graves at Winchester National Cemetery. The cemetery includes graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War as well as 20th-century conflicts.
Eric Anderson, executive director of the Red Cross of the Greater Shenandoah Valley, said it was important to honor those who had lost their lives in combat or serving their country. He considered the ceremony “a big win.”
“We ask you to watch over the families, and the loved ones and the friends of those left behind and those who have fallen and who have passed in the line of service,” Anderson said during a prayer. “Help all of us to remember those great things that were done in service to our country for the freedom that we so cherish.”
U.S. Army Veteran Marc Robinson said he was glad the pandemic did not prevent the Memorial Day ceremony from happening.
“Memorial Day is one of the most honored holidays of the year in my humble opinion, being a veteran,” Robinson said. “And this is a wonderful place to honor all of these veterans.”
The VA operates 142 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 41 states and Puerto Rico. More than 5 million Americans, including veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA cemeteries.