VICKSBURG, Ms (05/22/20) — COVID-19 has canceled numerous festivals and events including the memorial day celebration at the Vicksburg National Military Park.
The National Cemetery has about 18,000 graves and every year, flags are placed down in memory of the soldiers. “It’s a community tradition and it’s a lot of fun to watch,” said Bill Justice, Superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park.
Usually about 100 people help put out flags on every grave. “We get school groups and scout groups from the US Army Corps of Engineers come in and everybody pitches in to get the flags in the National Cemetery,” said Justice.
However because of COVID-19, only the park staff and a few volunteers are placing the flags.
This ceremony would normally take about an hour or less to do; this year, it took twice as long to cover all 18,000 graves.
“Oh it’s so special to just come by look at the cemetery and see the flags in front of the graves. Especially on a day like today where there’s a light breeze and it causes the flags to flutter in front of the graves,” said Justice.
Justice says even though they aren’t able to have the celebration like usual, he’s thankful the park is still able to honor those buried.
“It’s this really great way of remembering the sacrifice of the men who are here in the cemetery, but also the sacrifice of every soldier and sailor who fought and died in service of their country,” said Justice.
On Memorial Day, the town of Vicksburg usually holds interpretive programs to remember the soldiers while the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra plays patriotic songs; those events will not be happening this year due to COVID-19.