NEW YORK -- New Yorkers marked Memorial Day with car convoys and small ceremonies instead of parades, as those looking to honor fallen military memberscontended with coronavirus restrictions.
“It's something we're upset about, but we understand," said Raymond Aalbue, chairman of the United Military Veterans of Kings County, which usually puts on a parade in Brooklyn.
There's “no reason to put anybody in harm's way," he said. Still, “it's really cutting quick to the heart of all the veterans."
His organization will have a convoy of 10 cars leaving from the Bay Ridge spot where the parade usually starts and then ending up at the Brooklyn veterans affairs hospital, where participants will line up next to their cars for a salute and a wreath-laying ceremony. Elsewhere in the borough, Mayor Bill de Blasio was due at a wreath-laying at the Brooklyn War Memorial.
On nearby Long Island, a small group of veterans saluted, wearing masks and spaced several feet apart to observe social distancing, as a parade of cars passed beneath a large American flag by the Eisenhower Park Veterans Memorial on Monday morning. The parade and wreath-laying were closed to the public but streamed on County Executive Laura Curran's Facebook page.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined a private ceremony at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, with both the sacrifices of military members and the current challenge of coronavirus on his mind.
“Over 100,000 Americans will lose their lives to this COVID virus. How do we honor them? We honor them by growing stronger together,” he said.
“We want to make sure we remember them and thank our heroes today.”
As the holiday approached, Cuomo loosened coronavirus-related restrictions last week to allow small public gatherings — initially just for Memorial Day observances and religious services. He extended the eased rules Friday to all gatherings after the New York Civil Liberties Union sued, saying that if it was safe to gather to honor veterans and practice religion, the Constitution requires the same right be extended to other gatherings.
The rules now allow get-togethers of as many as 10 people, provided that participants stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from one another or cover their faces when unable to maintain that distance.
While many Memorial Day ceremonies this year reflected the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, officials in Rochester held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a memorial that commemorates Americans killed in more recent conflicts.
The city's forthcoming War on Terror Memorial will honor local members of the military who have died in wars since the 1990s. Construction is due to start next year.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello called the planned memorial an enduring reminder “of what it takes to be the land of the free,” WROC-TV reported.
In Queens, the group behind the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade expected a few people at the site where it normally ends its parade, said executive director Victor Mimoni.
One person will lay a wreath, another will do a flag ceremony and a third will play “Taps" while some others watch, he said, a far cry from the crowds that usually attend the event.
But “we felt the need to do something," Mimoni said.
On Staten Island, another convoy of cars, led by motorcycles, will take off in a procession after a wreath-laying ceremony at Hero Park.