• 66°

Virus concerns will change how flags are placed in National Cemetery this Memorial Day

The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the restrictions that have been put in place have led to many canceled and rescheduled events. But it won’t stop the long-held tradition of community volunteers coming to the Vicksburg National Military Park and the National Cemetery to put out thousands of flags near headstones and monuments, even if this year it cannot be done with the more than 100 volunteers who typically assist with the project.

“We are working some plans on exactly how we will put the flags out in the cemetery,” Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Bill Justice said. “We are planning to do that, but it will not be a public event.”

Justice said with the restrictions on the size of gatherings and guidelines for social distancing, bringing together so many people at this time just is not possible right now.

“When we have as many people as we have had gathering around, getting direction and so forth, there is no way any public distancing can occur. But at the same time, we don’t want to break a tradition of putting flags out in the National Cemetery,” Justice said. “So we are going to find another way of doing that for this year and looking forward to next year to be able to go back to the way we always have. It is such a great opportunity for the public, the community to come out to honor those who have served and in many cases died for their country.”

Each year, volunteers — made up of children, military personnel, veterans and “others who love the park and love the cemetery” — come to the park to help place some of the more than 18,000 flags that adorned the park each Memorial Day.

“It has been really popular and we have had well over 100 volunteers in some of the more recent years and they collectively manage to place the flags in the cemetery in less than an hour. Which is amazing,” Justice said. “We want to continue, (but it’s) not something we can safely do this year.”

Of the events that have been canceled this year due to concerns of the spread of the virus, Justice said this change has been among those that have disappointed him the most.

“This one event, the putting of the flags out in the cemetery is such a long-held tradition here, such a community moment that it’s a little frustrating,” he said. “But our current situation makes it not possible to continue that this year. But, it just happens to be the situation we find ourselves in and we have to look out for each other’s safety at this time. So, we will adjust for this year and be back next year.”

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

email author More by Tim