TIMMONIUM, Md. — The pandemic caused the annual Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens Memorial Day Ceremony to be called off this year, but organizers found another way to honor Marylanders killed in the line of duty.
Usually more than 1,500 people gather to remember those brave souls who lost their lives while serving their country, but this year the annual memorial day tradition goes silent with a pre-recorded ceremony.
Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens president Jack Mitchell said "you'll see some of the aspects of what we normally have on Memorial Day so it gives as good as a tribute as we felt we could."
While this year’s ceremony looks a lot different, Mitchell explained you can still see the Stars and Stripes flying at half staff, the Presentation of the Colors to honor each branch of the armed services, as well as the laying of a wreath to honor those who've laid down their lives in the line of duty.
The online ceremony honors five American service members lost during the last 14 months:
U.S.Army Sgt. 1st Class John David Randolph Hilty
U.S. Marine Corps First Lt. Hugh C. McDowell
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Moises A. Navas
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman
U.S. Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson
“These men and women, this year it happens to be five men, sacrificed their lives in this past year, so rather than just put everything on hold until a year from now, we felt it was important to give some recognition right now this memorial day,” Mitchell said.
Despite the absence of hundreds of visitors and service men and women, the fields are far from empty. Approximately 3,500 American flags have been placed on the final resting place of Maryland veterans.
“The Field of Honor will be adorned as it normally is with all those flags, so we're basically just doing as much as we can, to honor the traditions,” Mitchell said.
One tradition which carries on is to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"I hope that many people will take the time, whether it's come to the cemetery, to watch the videos to recognize their sacrifice because its just a level of courage that most of us can't understand,” Mitchell said.
It's why we don't say happy Memorial Day but instead 'thank you as we remember you, we are grateful to you and we remember our fallen.'
“Each year when we have the ceremony, Alan Walden our M.C., he points out that its not unlike Veterans Day, where you're celebrating the service of those who've served in the military, you're honoring those who have laid down their lives,” Mitchell said.
“It's more of a day of understanding and recognition, so it's not a happy day but it is a proud day,” Mitchell added.