ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. — Events traditionally held on Memorial Day and Memorial Day weekend have had to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those in Atlantic Beach thought otherwise.
Ten days ago the American Legion Post 129 filed a permit to host their annual Memorial Day Ceremony. Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser says that when the request came in, she thought it was a good move towards recovery for the city.
“We looked at this event in years past and the number of people that had come and we know everybody that’s involved in it and we just thought that the risk were really small for there to be a problem. We had really great cooperation in Atlantic Beach, and with the three beach communities, for social distancing. Maybe not everywhere, but certainly with a group like this coming together to honor our fallen heroes for Memorial Day and I had every expectation that people would do the right thing, and you saw it.”
The ceremony honored both those who have fallen, but also those on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clarence Hill, the President of the Beaches Veterans Memorial Park and the Past National Commander of the American Legion, spoke about the importance this day is as it reminds citizens about the price that freedom costs and how it transcends above politics.
“Now during the coronavirus pandemic, the most visible heroes are the health care professionals who are saving others and risking their own lives while doing so. These heroes have much in common with the people we honor today, America’s fallen veterans. They are men and women who have sacrificed their own lives so others could live. They are both elite and ordinary,” Hill said during the ceremony. “They are elite in sense of character, giving your life so others could live is the ultimate definition of selfless. They are ordinary in the fact they represent the diverse fabric of our country. They are rich and poor, black and white, male and female. They come from every ethnicity and background. In short, they look like any one of us. Labels that we hurl today like Democrat, Republican, red state, blue state, matter little while facing minds and machine gun fire while charging a beach. Politics are irrelevant to a family that hear the words ‘we regret to inform you’.”
Almost everyone attending the ceremony had a connection someway to the military. It was attended by Congressman John Rutherford and the main guest speaker was Colonel William Whittington. Whittington is a retired Marine and a retired Louisiana State Policeman.
Many of the attendees knew each other and have been coming to the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day ceremony for years. Wanda Brandt, the 1st Vice President of the Legion Auxiliary Department of Florida says it’s weird to not hug and kiss everyone because they are as close as family.
“I find that walking around and doing my little elbow bump and wanting to kiss somebody and just make sure that they are okay is the hardest part,” Brandt said.