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'A Very Difficult Pill To Swallow': Fort Snelling Cemetery To Forgo Memorial Day Public Ceremony Due To Pandemic

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Like so many things, Fort Snelling National Cemetery is also impacted by COVID-19, according to deputy cemetery director John Knapp.

"I think for everyone in America, and certainly those who honor and revere veterans, it's a very difficult pill to swallow," Knapp said.

For more than 80 years, and through all the elements, Fort Snelling has held a public ceremony on Memorial Day. But even this cemetery is not immune to a pandemic.

READ MORE: Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad Ends 41-Year Streak At Funerals Due To COVID-19

"Unfortunately, and it is with a saddened heart that we have to tell the nation at this national cemetery that will be not holding a public ceremony as we traditionally do," Knapp said.

They will hold a private ceremony, but with just a few people. A virtual, pre-recorded ceremony is available to watch on their Facebook page.

Also missing will be an organized flag placement, in which nearly 200,000 American flags are placed at grave sites.

Every year for Memorial Day weekend, Fort Snelling gets about 50,000 visitors from Saturday through Monday. Those visitors are still welcome, as long as social distancing is stressed.

"They are certainly welcome to come and visit their loved one's grave site and adorn that grave site as they normally would with flowers and their own flag if they choose," Knapp said.

Rocky Borchardt is with "Flags for Fort Snelling," the organization that puts out the Memorial Day flags.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Pandemic Putting End Of Life Memorials On Hold

"This is my way of giving back to them for all they've done to serve our country," Borchardt said.

They have about 6,000 volunteers who make it their mission to honor fallen heroes. This year, they'll still take requests if a family wants a flag, but they won't be out as a group.

"We waited until the last second, honestly, because we were really hoping to find some kind of solution," Borchardt said. "We knew in our hearts that it was the right decision."

Click here for more information on Flags For Fort Snelling, or call 763-296-FLAG (3524).

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