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National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona holding virtual Memorial Day ceremony this year

The National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona is streaming its wreath-laying ceremony online this year because of COVID-19.

PHOENIX — The National Cemetery of Arizona has announced there will be no public events on or around Memorial Day this year. Concerns over COVID-19 are to blame. 

Thousands typically turn out every Memorial Day at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona. Of course, all are there to pay their respects to our nation's heroes. 

But this year's ceremony – like so many other culturally significant events – will be virtual. 

"We are hosting a solemn wreath-laying ceremony by the cemetery staff and myself,” said Srey Austin, the director of the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona. “And we will post that on our Facebook page."

Director Austin also said volunteers are prohibited from laying flags on the gravestones of the fallen this year. Previously, this would have taken place the week before Memorial Day. 

“And yes, it’s not the exciting, glorious Super Bowl that we typically would have. But it...will be dignified and we definitely are honoring our veterans and their families," Austin said. 

Director Austin notes most veterans and families – but not all – have been receptive of the cemetery's decision. 

“And I can understand their surprise that we're not having one, maybe a little bit of their frustration and their anger,” she said.  

She speaks from a place of understanding. Austin not only served as an active-duty solider for more than eight years, but she credits the American military for allowing her to escape Cambodia when she was a little girl. 

“And for me, it's all of my brothers and sisters in arms and their families as well,” she said.  

Another way to pay your respects this year includes visiting www.vlm.cem.va.gov. There, for the first time, you can search for a loved one and leave a message.

And remember, the cemetery is still open for visitors. Just the Memorial Day ceremony is canceled. If you do go out to visit a loved one, use www.gravelocator.cem.va.gov to locate a grave. They traditional kiosks will not be available because of COVID-19.

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