LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The annual Memorial Day flag placement and ceremony at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City will not take place this year due to COVID-19, officials said.
“It’ll be really quiet on Memorial Day,” Fred Wagar said. Wagar is the Deputy Director of Operations at Nevada’s Department of Veteran Services.
No taps. No ceremony.
“Are we disappointed? Absolutely,” Wagar said. “It’s hard not to be disappointed when you really want to do something but you can’t.”
Wagar said the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“It was probably the hardest decision I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here in the last three years,” Wagar said. “But it was a necessary one. And we had to do it.”
Nevada is following the lead of veterans cemeteries across the country.
“Normally we would have 500 to 1,000 people out here, placing 29,000 flags,” Wagar said. “And then on Monday, normally our chapel, would have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people.”
Both Saturday and Monday’s events have been canceled.
They’re traditions that have been in place for nearly three decades.
“It’s unprecedented and we have to just use common sense and realize that we have a duty to make sure that we protect everyone that comes out here,” Wagar said.
Many of the people who would’ve come out are older veterans whose health conditions may make it tougher to beat coronavirus. It’s a risk the state isn’t willing to take.
“Flags look pretty, but Memorial Day is more than that,” Wagar said. “It’s about honoring the fallen Nevada heroes. You don’t need a flag to do that. Is it nice to do that? Yes, it is. I love looking out and seeing flags. But that’s not what it’s about, it’s about honoring the veterans.”
And Wagar said Memorial Day isn’t canceled.
“We didn’t close the cemetery and we didn’t shut down Memorial Day. Nobody is going to do that,” he said.
Visitors can still go to the cemetery this weekend or any time for that matter. They can bring flowers, flags and spend time with loved ones, graveside.
“We want to make sure people know they can come out,” Wagar said. “Come out, but use social distancing protocols, that’s all we’re asking.”
The Nevada Veterans Association said it will ensure flags are placed at each grave on Saturday. Volunteers plan to meet at the cemetery at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. Organizers said groups will be limited to 10 people or less and they will practice social distancing.
Officials said that the public is encouraged to wear face coverings.
For those who do not want to or cannot come out, the state will share two videos on social media as virtual ceremonies.
One video will focus on Southern Nevada and the other will focus on Northern Nevada, NDVS said.
The public will be able to view the videos on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/NevadaDepartmentofVeteransServices