None of the nation's 142 Veterans Affairs cemeteries are closed for Memorial Day or have ever closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but large groups, such as for ceremonies or of Boy Scouts placing flags on graves, were stopped because of public safety concerns, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said Monday.
"I just spoke at the Quantico National Cemetery, and as I was speaking, I was looking out at families collecting to memorialize their loved ones," Wilkie said on Fox News' "America's Newsroom." "That's happening all across the country."
The Boy Scouts will instead honor veterans through a virtual ceremony at 3 p.m. on Monday, said Wilkie, but families are always allowed at the cemeteries.
His comments came in response to Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., who last week said it's "appalling" that cemeteries are being restricted, because "if it's safe enough to be in a home repair store or in a grocery store or on a beach, then it's safe enough for us to come together for those that died and probably far more important."
Mast, a combat veteran, sent Wilkie a letter to ask that he reconsider the restrictions.
"The families have access, that's the key, and they've also had access when we've had our burials, and those burials have been going on all across the country," said Wilkie. "We haven't had the benefit of the Department of Defense honor guards. Those have been stopped for safety reasons. We will return our cemeteries to full use very shortly, and it is a tragedy in one sense that we haven't been allowed to bring masses of the American people into our cemeteries. As long as the families are allowed to go, that's the most important part of what we do."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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