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Memorial Day Honors the Veterans

As the United States commemorates its troops on Memorial Day, restrictions on vaccinated individuals visiting the nation’s veteran cemetery have been lifted, marking another step toward normalcy after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. Last Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that standards at the nation’s 155 military cemeteries would be relaxed.

The action comes after the VA announced last Monday that no new COVID deaths have occurred at its medical locations across the country, the first time since March 18, 2020. According to VA data, out of the roughly 9 million veterans engaged in VA services, more than 12,000 have died, and more than 2.5 million have been immunized against COVID-19.

According to Jeremy Butler of the Associated Press, the pandemic’s isolation has been especially difficult for veterans, many who rely on kinship with fellow military members to cope with wartime trauma. Butler, a 47-year-old Navy Reserve officer from New York, is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America lobbying group president.

Memorial Day can rekindle barely healed traumas for some, particularly the families of veterans who survived the horrors of war only to die of COVID. Susan Kenney of Massachusetts told the Associated Press that the death of her 78-year-old father from the illness in April 2020 is still fresh in her mind.

Last year, 76 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home died in one of America’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks in a long-term care home, including Charles Lowell, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War. She said, “I’ve been reliving this for a whole year. At every milestone. Veterans Day. His birthday. His death anniversary. Everything is a constant reminder of what happened. It’s so painful to think about.”

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