Memorial Day didn’t happen for many in America – at least not in the traditional ways.
It was nearly a non-event in Everett this year as well, but through some creativity by Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Veterans Commissioner Jeanne Cristiano – and a call for residents to heed social distance warnings – the City was able to pull off a Memorial Day Car Parade and ceremony in Glendale Park – a ceremony that attracted record attendance as people marked the occasion in their cars or just outside of their cars to keep safe distances.
Memorial Day exercises are always important, but they do blend together throughout history in a respectful way. Yet, in 2020, there are few who will forget the spirit that kept things going to honor fallen soldiers, as well as the emotional reminder of all the veterans that have passed in the last year – mostly from COVID-19 complications.
Cristiano laid out that sad fact right at the outset when she said the list of those Everett veterans that have passed since last year was significantly longer than usual.
“We will do the roll call of Everett veterans than have passed from last Memorial Day to this Memorial Day,” she said from the podium – as only TV crews and reporters stood in front of her and the audience in cars at a distance. “It’s 35 percent longer this year. It’s much more that died than in previous years and I don’t think you need to think long and hard about it to understand this Virus has taken so many too early and especially our elderly veterans.
“In light of this virus, there is no better way to demonstrate our constant and unrelenting determination to win the battle against this virus than by honoring our fallen soldiers and their families even during a pandemic,” she continued.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria delivered a short, but emotional, oration where he said the community has come together as it did in previous war times.
“I can think of nothing more important than honoring our fallen heroes here today,” he said. “But, I would be remiss in not acknowledging that life for millions of people has changed radically across the world over the past few months, and thousands of people are dying every day – killed by an invisible army…We are not up against another army or nation, but the enemy is right here and elusive. As with wars in the past, we have come together again as a community to protect and assist those most vulnerable. I have been inspired by the shared sacrifice and the personal responsibility that our residents have taken.”
He added that the virus has awakened ideals within everyone consistent with the soldiers of the past who died on the battlefield – those ideals being duty, personal responsibility, sacrifice, endurance, hope and faith.
The exercises were held at the new gazebo in Glenwood Cemetery, with a mostly empty audience around it. Yet, hundreds in cars packed the pathways of the cemetery in what was likely a record attendance for recent years.
Prior to the exercises, City officials and veterans from World War II to Afghanistan gathered at the Everett High parking lot in their cars. Adorned with American flags, a rolling rally drove behind police cars and fire trucks up Elm Street and down Washington Avenue to the cemetery.
As they entered, patriotic music blasted for all to hear, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and First Lady Stacy DeMaria welcomed everyone as they drove by, and City employees passed out sanitized American flags.
Even a City employee wiped down the podium and microphone with disinfectant between speakers. Precautions were everywhere, but they didn’t seem to distract from the purpose – to ‘Never Forget.’
The war dead from Everett include:
•World War I – 44
•World War II – 144
•Korean War – 18
•Vietnam War – 9