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Kellan Kurfis crouched down and laid an American flag pin at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, below the name of the man who taught his grandfather to be a soldier.

The 9-year-old wore a black mask stretched over his mouth and nose; it was only the family’s second outing this spring, and they were all being careful. But he wanted to come, because his grandfather couldn’t be there this year.

Many Memorial Day commemorations were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic or altered to comply with public health guidelines. Arlington National Cemetery was closed to all but family members. As the U.S. death toll from covid-19 neared 100,000 Monday, the cemetery live-streamed President Trump, Vice President Pence and other leaders participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., streamed its bell-tolling ceremony and other events online. There were prayers delivered on Facebook and video tributes to the fallen shared on Twitter.

But in Washington, with its iconic memorials, such as the Wall listing the names of more than 58,000 people who died for their country during the Vietnam War, many came to remember — in person. 

For some, the pandemic served to crystallize the idea of shared sacrifice and the weight of all those losses.

At the Wall, they found and traced the engraved names of loved ones with tentative fingers, laid roses, and left handwritten notes and maps of Vietnam and folded flags and a can of Bud Light. “I miss you Daddy,” someone wrote on a black-and-white photo of a burly man holding a tiny girl. A veteran found the name he sought on the Wall with his gnarled hand, choked out a swear and burst into tears.

“We have to come,” said Rob Wilkins, retired from the U.S. Air Force and president of Rolling Thunder Washington D.C. “It was never a question.”

He was thinking of those who died as he looked at the Wall, mask in hand. “Black, white, Asian, tall, short, it didn’t matter,” he said. “They were American, and they wanted to defend our freedom.”.…Read More..

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