Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

Memorial Day and the COVID-19 Pandemic

 


This week in Cheyenne there has been a fierce debate over the President’s decision to lower the flags to half mast for the Memorial Day celebrations. For the first time in our history there were several people in the state of Wyoming that want the lowered flags to represent people other than those who lost their lives in service to their country.

Since May 30, 1868, American’s have celebrated those who paid the ultimate price for their country. Originally known as Decoration Day, the first Memorial Day took place in Arlington Cemetery. According to americaslibrary.gov, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the grand Army of the Republic issued what was called General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a memorial day. He declared it to be "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Since then there has been a ceremony in that same cemetery where a wreath is placed on the grave of the unknown soldier to show our constant remembrance of those who were lost.

While Memorial Day has been a long-standing tradition, the lowering of the American Flag to half staff has not had such a history. In the past many people had just used their own discretion when lowering the flag, and as such, there were many conflicting policies on when the flag should be lowered. On March 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower created an edict that would finally set a standard for flying the flag at half-mast. While there are several rules for times and dates to fly the flag at half mast, the rules for the flag on Memorial Day are clear. According to va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/halfstaff, “On Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes.” This has been the standing tradition for many years, but now it has come under fire.

Several of the citizens in Cheyenne and other Wyoming towns as well as others across the country are demanding that the flag be flown at half staff on this day to represent those that have lost their lives due to the COVID-19 virus. In an attempt to placate those who were most upset President Trump issued the following statement. “I will be lowering the flags on all federal buildings and national monuments to half staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the Coronavirus… On Monday, the flags will be at half staff in honor of the men and women in our military who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”

As if Americans needed another reason to fight, there were still many on both sides that we furious of the President’s decision. “I do not believe these COVID numbers. Too many have reported non-COVID deaths as COVID. Even nurses are complaining about it. I think it’s sad when people have to lie about deaths to keep us under their prison rules, but let murderers and such out, but sure, forget our military, let’s just honor COVID deaths” commented one resident who asked not to be identified. Another stated “People are being so stupid about this. People have died from this sickness that didn’t need to! We should be spending everyday honoring them!”

Whatever side of this debate that you find yourself on, it is logical to assume that there is enough time to honor both those that have died in service to their country and those who died from COVID. It would seem respectful to continue to let those who sacrificed for their country to continue to have the same day as they have had since the Civil War when mothers who had lost sons banded together to lie wreaths on the graves of both Northern and Southern soldiers in show of solidarity. It is uncertain when the COVID situation will resolve itself, but just as we have a day to mourn those lost on September 11, 2001, surely we can find a day, other than Memorial Day, to mourn those we’ve lost due to COVID.

 

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