VA undersecretary addresses Memorial Day Boy Scout flag controversy

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On Memorial Day we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Although this year traditions will be broken and grills turned off, Randy Reeves, the undersecretary for Memorial Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, wants people to know that coronavirus-related restrictions should not affect the day's significance.

Reeves often quotes a Gold Star mother whose son died in Iraq, saying, “It's not about just Memorial Day. I want people to remember my loved one every day.”

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Typically, groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would place flags on each individual grave at every national cemetery. But this year, due to the pandemic, the VA chose to have their staff place flags on the gravesides at small cemeteries only, and an avenue of flags at larger cemeteries. Reeves stressed that this was just a temporary measure for Memorial Day 2020.

“We want people to come back and do those things we rely on and depend on and really appreciate,” Reeves said. “This is something that we want to get back to doing as soon as we possibly can.”

This Memorial Day will certainly be different, with the VA showcasing its traditional ceremonies virtually. Reeves also noted that all of the national cemeteries have remained open during the pandemic and will continue to be accessible as long as people practice safe social distancing when visiting their loved ones.

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As for the controversial press the VA has been receiving for not placing flags on every grave this year and not having a public ceremony, Reeves doesn’t seem to mind. He said that more importantly people this year are reminded that Memorial Day is not about what you grill in your backyard or the parties you go to, it's about those who fought for our country.

“This year I have seen more people talking about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, talking about Memorial Day and talking about our veterans than I have ever seen,” Reeves said. “I'm not concerned about the reasons that they're talking, I'm just happy to see that people are talking about those who gave us all these freedoms that we have.”