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Memorial Day observances adjusted due to coronavirus

Posted at 10:18 PM, May 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 23:38:01-04

Residents throughout Wisconsin observed Memorial Day differently this year because of coronavirus concerns.

On a typical year, Richard Silberman would play Taps in person at a cemetery or memorial service, but this year he's playing from his driveway.

"We have a lot of young people in this little cul-de-sac here, and maybe it will be a way for parents to initiate a talk with them sometime about, what is Memorial Day," said Silberman.

The Air Force veteran served during the Vietnam-era conflicts. He joined nearly one thousand others with Bugles across the United States in playing Taps at 3 p.m. today.

"This is when we remember those that gave all, didn't come back," said Silberman.

Coronavirus forced many Memorial Day traditions to adjust. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made several changes, including closing ceremonies to the general public. It also canceled volunteer efforts like placing flags at gravesites.

Michelle Sackmaster decided to place flags at several cemeteries, including Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee.

"I look at these people who died on battlefields and they didn't think anything about safety, and I look at the social distancing out here," said Sackmaster.

Sackmaster is a kindergarten teacher in Mukwonago. On Facebook, she called upon her students and parents to safely place flags at gravesites. More people took on her request than she expected.

"I was just hoping that if I threw a pebble in the stream it would fan out and we'd get it done," Sackmaster said "And there’s a lot that still don’t have flags, and that’s making me sad."

Others appreciated Sackmaster's efforts.

Oluwabamigbe Oluwatayo was born and raised in Nigeria, and he came to the United States several years ago. This is the first Memorial Day he's observed at a national cemetery.

"I'm an immigrant, I'm enjoying a nice, free country here, and people like this have sacrificed a lot for people like me to come here," said Oluwatayo.

He said he has been able to follow "the American Dream" and has worked his way up in retail. The pandemic has since forced him out of work, but he's grateful of the support he gets in the United States.

"People like this that we are remembering on this day paid the sacrifice to be able to have a stable place," said Oluwatayo.

Amanda Franzen brought Oluwatayo to Wood National Cemetery. Her uncle, who has since died, served in Vietnam. He was buried in Union Grove, but Franzen wanted to show Oluwatayo this cemetery.

"I don’t punch into work thinking I might not punch out," said Franzen. "But all of these people have. And we have such a good life here because of people like my uncle. And so we owe them a really deep thank you.

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