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Children look at a veteran's grave at last year's Memorial Day service at the Roslyn cemetery. There will be no public Memorial Day ceremonies this year.

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In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has been somewhat surreal. Yes, major league sports have been shut down, college and university campuses across the country have been converted to online programs and lives have been forever changed.

The country has been on quarantine since March 23 with stay at home restrictions, but it has finally cut into a bit of history with the cancellation of Memorial Day ceremonies across America.

Like other cities and towns across the nation, Ellensburg has a long history and rich tradition with ceremonies of long standing at the local cemeteries. None of which will take place on Monday because of the coronavirus that still has the country on lockdown.

“We went out on Thursday and put up all the signs at High Valley saying it was cancelled. There are flags available to put on the graves, but we won’t be having anything public this year,” said Ron Ness, quartermaster of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Rodeo Post 683. “I would have to say this is the first time, maybe ever, that we haven’t had our celebration on Memorial Day.

Last year about 40 people gathered at the 134-year-old Independent Order of Odd Fellows Brick Road Memorial Park, which first opened in 1882 with 900 veterans of military service dating back to the Civil War.

Across town, several hundred gathered at Ellensburg Memorial Park to join in a grateful nation’s efforts to honor its men and women who died defending this country.

Miniature flags lined the neat grave site rows at the 40-acre IOOF Brick Road Memorial Park Cemetery in east Ellensburg where VFW senior commander Al Bragg officially named the area near the wall Stan Dudley Park, unveiling a memorial plaque in honor of the Chief Petty Officer.

Dudley, who passed away this spring, was in charge of five Navy direction-finding technicians during World War II. He was recognized with a unit commendation just below a Presidential Commendation. As one of Ellensburg’s most distinguished veterans, the 101-year-old Dudley had the pleasure of being there for his own dedication ceremony shared one more story of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year.

“Today is as much about the human spirit as it is anything,” Vietnam era veteran Tom Duke, who was stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station from 1965-70, told last year’s audience. “People need to understand that all lives matter and our veterans are coming home ... broken.

“Today is to honor them, but what we need to do is honor them every day. As a country, we need to protect and honor each other, have a conversation and see what we can do to help our veterans move forward. We need to come to grips with this.”

And now that the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more people than the Viet Nam War, maybe Memorial Day is as much remembering those who passed because of the pandemic.

Memorial Day has been and will always be a national tradition honoring not just veterans but people near and dear to the citizens of the Kittitas Valley. It’s just that in the year of the coronavirus, those ceremonies will be more private.

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