By Jim Reed
On Memorial Day, we set aside time to remember and respect the loss of life from the ranks of our military services.
We express empathy for family members who have suffered loss and we grieve the devastation that wars bring.
In 2020, social-distancing and other precautions the nation is taking in the battle against COVID-19 will change the traditional Memorial Day celebrations like parades and community picnics by which we honor the men and women of our military who have given their lives in the service of the country.
Our celebrations this year will be moved to online platforms and be undertaken at home. Though in different forms, the spirit of gratitude for the sacrifices made and the sense of loss felt for these precious lives will nonetheless be expressed through many commemorations.
For example, an online concert and celebration hosted by Gary Sinise can be found on PBS on Memorial Day. As well, the USO has posted "10 Socially-Distanced Ways to Honor the Fallen on Memorial Day Weekend 2020," a series of ideas to recognize the sacrifices of service members and their families this year.
May is also designated by Congress as Military Appreciation Month, taking place every year. The pandemic virus has affected so many service members and their families. It has created additional anxiety in their lives that already include a fair amount of uncertainty. We can, in the month of May, recognize and appreciate their perseverance through this crisis and all they are doing to ease the burden for the rest of us.
During the COVID-19 crisis, we are grateful for the National Guard, which is at work in every state, 50,000 strong, doing all those necessary functions in an emergency such as this. Our appreciation for these dedicated troops who leave their civilian life to serve their country is enormous. NCSL has created a resource that documents the various activities that the National Guard is undertaking across the 50 states and territories.
NCSL’s Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force works to serve the health and well-being of service members, veterans and their families through consideration of state policies addressing veteran employment initiatives and hiring preferences; development near military installations; education programs; mental health; housing; and benefits for military personnel, veterans and their dependents. This legislation database is available for learning more about what state legislatures are considering and enacting on military and veterans issues.
As we virtually observe Memorial Day this year, let us keep in mind these words of Winston Churchill, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Jim Reed staffs the NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force.