Virginia War Memorial holds virtual Memorial Day ceremony for first time in 64 years

Virginia War Memorial holds virtual Memorial Day ceremony for first time in 64 years
For the first time in 64 years, the Virginia War Memorial held its annual Memorial Day ceremony without the general public. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memorial Day ceremonies throughout the U.S. will look much different - with many public gatherings canceled and organizations opting for live streams, including the Virginia War Memorial. It was the first time 64 years that the general public was not invited to attend.

The half-hour ceremony from the Virginia War Memorial Shrine of Memory started at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 25.

Posted by Virginia War Memorial on Monday, May 25, 2020

Every year, Mary Ann Wilson looks forward to the Virginia War Memorial’s annual Memorial Day Ceremony, and every few weeks, she looks forward to remembering her son - Scott Wilson - who is honored eternally in the memorial’s peace garden. His name is on a plaque, with a rose etched into the stone in the Memorial’s Peace Garden.

“When he was younger, I got really upset with him about something and he went out to the garden and didn’t say anything. He didn’t say anything and handed me a rose," Wilson said, explaining the significance of the flower.

Mary Ann Wilson sits by the plaque honoring her late son, Scott Wilson, who served in the Persian-Gulf War. She was one of the few who came to the VA War Memorial ceremony in-person.
Mary Ann Wilson sits by the plaque honoring her late son, Scott Wilson, who served in the Persian-Gulf War. She was one of the few who came to the VA War Memorial ceremony in-person. (Source: wwbt/nbc12)

Reasons like that are why she took the time to still be at the ceremony in person.

“These are not normal times..." Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Director of the war memorial, said. The entire ceremony was broadcasted online for thousands. Dr. Mountcastle leads the event - honoring fallen soldiers. Including Newport News serviceman, Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, who died in Afghanistan earlier this year.

“It was still great to hit the meaning of the day, and honor those who make our daily lives possible," Dr. Mountcastle said of the capability of holding the ceremony virtually. He described the initial feeling as “odd”, not being able to see the familiar faces in the crown.

Wilson pointed out that fact that the virtual method possibly opened up opportunities for conversation among family, by not having to worry about bothering a crowd:

“Since families are together and they’re in isolation, not only the youngsters but even the more senior ones, they can really share stories," she said.

But as Wilson reflected on the memory of her son, those themes of honoring those falling rings even more true for her.

“It’s a way to really keep the memory of those who served for us, and why we have our freedom today," she added.

An American flag will be posted on all gravesites and the Avenue of Flags will line cemetery roadways between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

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