Earlier this month, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie made the announcement that it would commemorate Memorial Day this year with solemn wreath ceremonies. He expanded by saying that “while the department can’t hold large public ceremonies, VA will still honor Veterans and service members with the solemn dignity and respect they have earned through their service and sacrifice” and cemeteries.
In response, Florida Rep. Brian Mast (R) urged Secretary Wilkie to reverse his decision to restrict those who wish to pay their respects to fallen heroes on Memorial Day.
With the Secretary’s restriction, the public would not be able to attend the wreath laying ceremonies and they would not be able to volunteer as groups for the traditional placement of American flags at gravesites.
In a letter directed to Secretary Wilkie, Rep. Mast argued that “with many parts of our country now in the process of a phased re-opening, I find it appalling that beaches will be open for the holiday but that access to VA cemeteries will remain restricted.”
He added that “we are blessed beyond words to be citizens of the greatest country on Earth,” noting that “restricting Memorial Day ceremonies and preventing the tradition of volunteering placing our beautiful flag on each grave flies in the face of the freedoms that so many have died to protect.”
Secretary Wilkie is expected to preside over the wreath laying ceremony that will take place at the Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia on Memorial Day.
Speaking on why the freedom to honor the fallen is important, Rep. Mast commented that “instead of mourning apart from each other, we share this emotion for each person who gave the last beat of their heart to defend our freedom.” Mast added that “our children and everybody across our nation should join in this emotion together to truly appreciate that there were brave men and women who showed strength, courage and patriotism with every bit of life they had so that we may live free.”