Like pretty much everything these days, Memorial Day at the Forest Lawn Group cemeteries (and all across WNY) will look very different this year than it ever has before. Unfortunately, this year, New York State and Erie County social distancing mandates remain in effect. Although NYS Governor Cuomo did announce on May 19 that public gatherings for Memorial Day are permitted, they must be limited to no more than 10 people, which means that the traditional Memorial Day events and activities that happen here and across WNY cannot take place this year as they have in the past.
So the veterans organizations that present annual Memorial Day ceremonies, which we are so proud to host at Forest Lawn and our sister cemeteries, have all made the difficult but certainly prudent decision to cancel these annual events, including:
- The Erie County American Legion ceremony at Forest Lawn
- The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) ceremony at Forest Lawn
- Hamburg Township VFW Post 1419 ceremony at Lakeside Cemetery
- Pvt. Leonard Post Jr. VFW Post 6251 ceremony at St. Matthew’s Cemetery
- Town of West Seneca Veterans Committee ceremony at St. Matthew’s Cemetery
- George F. Lamm Post 622, Amherst Township VFW Post 416, Town of Amherst and the Village of Williamsville ceremony at Williamsville Cemetery
Unfortunately, the same legal mandates that have prompted the cancellation of these events also make it impossible for us to allow the general public to place flags at the tens of thousands of veterans graves in the veterans sections of Forest Lawn. If you are the family member of deceased veteran, you are of course welcome to make your personal tribute to your loved one by decorating his/her grave. Cemeteries across the nation have had to make the same decision. Even access to Arlington National Cemetery remains limited only to the family members of those interred there.
But Memorial Day CANNOT pass without honoring our late veterans.
While we recognize that it is everyone’s responsibility do our part to stop the spread of the Coronavirus by complying with the law, we remain steadfast in our commitment to honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and all that we hold dear. At times like this, we need to think “outside the box,” so we have reached out to the Erie County American Legion and have made arrangements with our friends at WBEN Radio 930 to present two very special broadcasts:
- On Friday, May 22 from 9 am ‘til noon, Forest Lawn is sponsoring a “Memorial Day Tribute” on WBEN. Medal of Honor recipient David Bellavia will host this special commercial free show in which listeners can call in and share their memories of and tributes to our beloved late veterans.
- On Memorial Day, Monday May 25 (specific time TBD) WBEN will air the pre-recorded official annual Erie County American Legion Memorial Day service. Working with members of the American Legion, we have recorded remarks from those who would normally speak at the event, as well as sound clips of the other elements of the annual program such as “To the Colors” and “Taps.”
A radio ad promoting these special programs is currently airing on WBEN. Click HERE to listen to the ad.
Here’s a link to a flyer that summarizes the plans for Memorial Day: Memorial Day 2020