US Boy Scouts banned from Memorial Day tradition of placing flags on veterans graves due to coronavirus
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The coronavirus has caused the cancellation of a longtime Memorial Day tradition where Boy Scouts place American flags on the graves of military veterans.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has prohibited public events at veteran cemeteries, which means that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are banned from placing flags on the graves like they have done for decades,.
The U.S. National Cemetery Administration said that the national cemeteries run by the VA will not be hosting events due to the “national emergency” as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.
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Local officials in Long Island, New York, home to two national cemeteries with over 500,000 veterans buried there, aren’t happy with the VA’s decision.
"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," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in response to the news.
Bellone believes that the tradition can continue safely and responsibly.
"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 said. “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.”
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The National Cemetery Administration responded to Bellone by saying that Long Island has “not yet met the state criteria for re-opening,” which means that social gathering limits must remain in place, but added that families of veterans are still able to attend the gravesites and can place American flags there if they desire.
"It's definitely a very emotional, kind of moving experience. Personally, my Dad is a veteran,” 18-year-old Eagle Scout Kieran Monaghan said about the tradition. “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.”
He added, "I hope we are able to put the flags down on the graves and pay our respects.”
Boy Scouts troops in California, Maryland, Missouri, and Wisconsin have all been forced to cancel their flag-placing plans.
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