Coronavirus forces creativity in Memorial Day tributes

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The coronavirus changed Memorial Day plans across the Valley, but it couldn't stop a mission to pay tribute.

In a nearly empty Red Bank Cemetery, seven veterans did the work of dozens who couldn't safely come.

"Our veterans are never forgotten," said Air Force veteran and VFW Post 3325 member Jerry Hayden. "With the coronavirus now everybody's stepping back."

The bagpipes and crowds and congressional speakers are missing this year, but the Memorial Day mission remains the same.

Veterans and visitors spread red, white, and blue across the cemetery.

Every flag represents a veteran, like Roy Farris, who served in World War II.

Korean War veteran Albert Leroy Dean loved this tradition. Now, his friends come to honor him.

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David Babb of Tulare honored veterans on Memorial Day with a "Taps" performance.

"This is the first year we've done it," said Jan Morgan, of Sanger.

"In fact, he was here at this time last year, in person, and then he passed away," said her husband, Michael Morgan. "So we just came to decorate his grave."

Central Valley Blue Star Moms had to change their plans too, from planting thousands of flags to Fresno to waving at passing cars at Clovis Cemetery.

But no health scare could divert them from honoring the service members around their necks by offering emotional support to the Gold Star mothers, who only have photos and memories of the loved ones they lost.

"We will not change because of anything," said Chris Hofmann of the Central Valley Blue Star Moms. "We're going to be out here no matter what to support them."

Even though the ceremonies are smaller and less personal, VFW members handing out flags to people paying tribute say the impact is just as big.

"No less meaningful at all," said Air Force veteran Chris Hoffman. "We still have the honor. We still have the respect for those that gave their lives for our freedoms."
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