Most years, there are plenty of handshakes and hugs to go around at the annual Highlands American Legion Post 370 Memorial Day ceremony.
On Monday, polite waves and tips of the cap had to suffice.
Legion members and local supporters practiced social distancing during the Memorial Day observance. Decked out in their customary blue sweaters, and standing six feet apart, Post 370 honored the fallen members of the United States Armed Forces.
For anyone unable to attend due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was also live streamed on the Post 370 Facebook page.
“Ladies and gentlemen, and veteran comrades, this day is sacred so we will not let this pandemic stop us from celebrating the service of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Post 370 Commander Ed McCloskey said. “We honor the memory of those who gave their lives in service of our country and those others who have dropped their burdens by the wayside of life and gone to eternal rest.”
Post 370 members presented the colors and raised a new American flag above the Highlands Veteran’s Plaza as the “Star Spangled Banner” played.
Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor used his time at the podium to remind the crowd what Memorial Day really means.
“I ran into a friend of mine yesterday and we discussed some town business, but before he left he said ‘Happy Memorial Day,’” Taylor said. “I wasn’t offended because I knew the point he was trying to get across, but Memorial Day is supposed to be a somber day where we honor those who died protecting this country.”
Taylor was reminded of those who died at Gettysburg, who were memorialized in Abraham Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address.”
“One line that has always stuck with me is when Lincoln said, ‘that from the honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,’” Taylor said. “We should be reminded of the sacrifices the men and women of the military have made when we participate in government, when we volunteer in our community and when we exercise our rights as free citizens.”
McCloskey ended the ceremony by reading the names of 18 veterans whose names were added to the Honor Walk at the Veteran’s Plaza. Post 370 sells bricks throughout the year that can be inscribed with the names and branch of service of each veteran.