VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves speaks at a brief Memorial Day ceremony this morning at Calverton National Cemetery.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

To the Editor:

Thank you to RiverheadLOCAL for your outstanding coverage of Memorial Day 2020. By reporting on the ceremony held at Calverton National Cemetery on May 25, you performed a valuable public service reaching far beyond your coverage area.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had tremendous impact on the National Cemetery Administration’s 143 cemeteries. Since the virus began devastating American families, NCA team members, most notably at Calverton, have been working even harder than usual. They still are.

Caring for veterans and their families is NCA’s sacred mission. We memorialize veterans every day and Memorial Day is especially important to us.

This year, guidelines from public health officials made it necessary for cities and states around the country to cancel traditional Memorial Day observances. These same guidelines required NCA to limit attendance at cemeteries, but we could not let Memorial Day go by without honoring our fallen heroes. We kept all cemeteries open and held ceremonies with just our cemetery staff and a few guests while implementing proper physical distancing. We garnered large online audiences, mainly through social media. Your coverage helped achieve this goal.

Immediately prior to Memorial Day, NCA received tremendous media interest. Patriotic citizens expressed heartfelt desire to properly honor fallen Veterans. This year, we heard Americans talking about Memorial Day and honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice more than any year in recent memory. Even though the country was going through extreme crisis, our citizens came together to remember; in their own way.

I greatly appreciate your flexibility and professionalism in covering a ceremony unlike what we are accustomed to presenting. Thanks especially to RiverheadLOCAL reporter Denise Civiletti for attending and for doing such a wonderful job capturing the essence of the event your readers were unfortunately unable to attend in person. You also gave recognition to the tremendous service provided by the Calverton National Cemetery team members who have been among the heroes in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With your support, our ceremony at Calverton reached many more people than we would otherwise. Most importantly, you helped honor our fallen heroes by helping portray the true meaning of Memorial Day.

With deepest gratitude, I am
Randy Reeves
Commander, U.S. Navy, Retired
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs
Washington, D.C.

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