HEATH TWP. — A crowd of over 100 people gathered at the Hamilton Area Veterans Memorial in Heath Township to observe Memorial Day on Monday, May 25.
Despite ongoing government restrictions and guidelines in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of observers were not wearing masks or maintaining six-feet, the recommended space for social distancing.
The event, which began with a parade from Hamilton High School to the site of the memorial near the Heath Township offices, featured a prayer ceremony and musical performance. It started at 9 a.m. and lasted for a little more than 20 minutes.
Speakers and participants prayed to honor those who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military, as well as veterans of the country’s armed services.
While crowds gathered at the memorial Monday, organizers had originally canceled the event due to coronavirus concerns in late April, per the Hamilton Veteran’s Memorial Facebook page. The page later posted that the parade, referred to as a "protest" parade, would still take place.
State Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, was among those in attendance on Monday. He said the event was a sign of respect for those who fell in combat, as well as those who have served and are currently serving.
Victory believes attendees of the event showed "common sense" in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the sickness caused by the coronavirus.
"We've learned a lot about COVID-19 in the last couple of months," Victory said. "As we speak right now the sun is shining, the wind is blowing. And we've learned that the toxicity of COVID-19 outside isn't as prevalent as (indoors)."
Public health officials have said that being outdoors poses less risk of transmission of COVID-19 than indoors, but the risk is still there.
"You also don't see the shaking of hands," Victory added. "You might see (people) gathering but those are the family units that have been together. And so I see good common sense being displayed here."
In Holland, Memorial Day was also observed at Pilgrim Cemetery and in downtown Holland.
The "Avenue of Flags" at Pilgrim Cemetery featured hundreds of American flags raised along the routes in the cemetery, placed by volunteers from VFW Post 2144 of Holland.
At Pilgrim Cemetery, a small ceremony featuring military veterans took place Monday morning. In lieu of a crowd, the event was streamed on YouTube.
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City of Holland Mayor Nathan Bocks was among the speakers. He brought up the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the sacrifices health officials are asking people to make cannot compare to those made by those honored on Memorial Day.
"The burden we have been asked to bear pails in comparison to the sacrifices we honor today," Bocks said. "... This year, these (Memorial Day) events are smaller, fewer, and some have been canceled. But that does not dim our enthusiasm, our responsibility and our duty to stop and remember the meaning of this day."
While the Holland Memorial Day Parade was also canceled because of the pandemic, American flags were also raised along the traditional parade route, beginning at the end of 8th Street in downtown Holland and leading to Pilgrim Cemetery.
— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo.