How to observe Memorial Day and help military families from home during pandemic

Many events have been canceled because of COVID-19, but there are still ways to show support.
Modified military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery
An Old Guard Soldier wears a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while rendering honors at a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery on April 14, 2020.Elizabeth Fraser / U.S. Army/Arlington National Cemetery via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

For families who have lost military loved ones in death, Memorial Day matters. It’s a time of year when they feel that all the sacrifices — and all the loss — are appreciated by others outside their immediate families.

Of course, Memorial Day will be anything but normal for military families this year. Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the public, and many large Memorial Day observances around the country have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, here are ways to observe Memorial Day from home and also help grieving military families and veterans in need.

Arlington National Cemetery virtual visits

Over Memorial Day weekend, Arlington National Cemetery only will be open to family pass holders who are wearing face coverings. This month, though, the cemetery unveiled an online exhibit to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of its Memorial Amphitheater. The centennial exhibit allows people to explore Arlington’s grounds virtually.

Arlington also will go live on its Facebook page at 5:30 a.m. ET on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25) so people can see the cemetery and the Washington, D.C., skyline light up with the sunrise, and again at 2 p.m. ET the same day on Instagram to show families visiting the cemetery's busiest sections from a respectful distance.

VA wreath-laying ceremonies

At all 142 national cemeteries managed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there will be brief wreath-laying ceremonies on Memorial Day accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of “Taps.” These ceremonies will not be open to the public, but they will be livestreamed on the National Cemetery Administration’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Veterans Legacy Memorial

The Veterans Legacy Memorial is an online database of the nearly 4 million service members and veterans interred in national cemeteries. For the first time this year, online visitors can leave written comments of tribute for any of those individuals.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

TAPS provides care and resources to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. Much of that support typically happens at in-person events, including “Good Grief Camps” for children — but this year, because of COVID-19, TAPS’ events are being offered virtually. Military family members who are struggling with grief or needing other support can contact the TAPS 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline at (800) 959-TAPS (8277).

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Carry The Load

In non-pandemic years, the Dallas-based group Carry The Load coordinates a 15,500-mile relay to honor military service members, veterans, first responders and their families in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day. Because that wasn’t possible this year, the group has been doing the relay virtually and honoring “Veterans of the Day” with remembrances on social media. Carry The Load also supports non-profit organizations that help military and first-responder families with counseling, suicide prevention, service dogs, job placement, home improvements, scholarships for children of the fallen, and other services.

Gold Star Wives of America

Gold Star Wives of America is a congressionally chartered organization that helps widows and widowers who lost their spouses to military-related causes of death. To learn more about the help that’s available navigating benefits and finding support, click here.

American Gold Star Mothers

American Gold Star Mothers is an organization of moms whose sons or daughters died in the line of duty or as a result of injuries while on active duty. To learn more or support Gold Star Mothers, click here.

Patriot Guard Riders

Throughout the year, Patriot Guard Riders attend the funeral services of military service members, first responders and veterans. Their activities have been curtailed because of COVID-19, but the group is still working to help military families and veterans through its “Help on the Homefront” programs. To help support such efforts, click here.

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