Celebrating Memorial Day amid a pandemic may seem to be an odd experience, but for the Regan family from Cheshire, it was important to celebrate the national holiday in a meaningful way.
“We would normally do the parades with our kids, but since that was all canceled, we wanted to find another way to still be able to celebrate in a way that means something to them,” said Sarah Regan, who alongside her husband, took their three children to visit the National Iwo Jima Memorial on Ella Grasso Boulevard in New Britain.
Her son, Braydon Regan, 8, has a love for history, especially World War II and he is currently reading up on the Civil War. “It’s fun to learn about the history and the people who made so many sacrifices for the United States and for our freedom,” he said. “It feels great to visit the memorial and learn more.”
The children ran around the memorial park, glancing at the plaques and reading off names, while Sarah Regan watched and said they developed an interest in World War II history during some of their readings during distance learning. She thought it was a good idea to let them continue.
“It’s important for them to understand at a young age of the sacrifices that people have made for us,” she said, pointing out that with the ongoing pandemic and the government ordering its residents to stay at home, it really brings a different perspective to what the soldiers have done.
“Being ordered to stay at home versus being order to fight are very different,” she said. “It really makes what they have done even more remarkable and it’s important for us to do something to remember that.”
For Paul Archambault from Farmington, it was an emotional moment to share with his family as he recalled memories of his father who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was part of a pilot group called the “Flying Tigers” that was stationed in China.
“It’s good for the kids to understand what their grandfather did and to appreciate the freedom that we have,” he said. “It also feels good to be outside again and have a little sense of normalcy, despite having masks on.”
Father and daughter duo David and Danielle Silver from West Hartford took a moment to appreciate a memorial bench that was dedicated to the U.S. Dental Corps. Danielle Silver is currently studying to become a dentist at the University of Pennsylvania, so seeing that bench took on a special meaning for her.
As a future health care worker, she is concerned about how future treatments will be organized and accessed. “From this experience we saw a lot of healthcare workers don’t have the support that they need. That’s very frightening and frustrating to see. I just hope this experience will give us a better idea on how to move forward,” she said.
David Silver agreed, stating that while paying tribute to the past, it’s important to look into the future.
“Once we have a vaccine, it’s important that everyone has access to it,” he said.
Due to social distancing restrictions, Bristol’s Memorial Day Parade and Procession were both canceled. But by thinking outside the box, Nutmeg TV and the Bristol Veterans Council decided to pre-record a virtual Memorial Day ceremony to share on Nutmeg TV, YouTube, and various social media platforms.
Held at American Legion Post 2, the virtual ceremony included a POW/MIA missing man table ceremony conducted by Tim Gamache of the Bristol Veterans Council and narrated by Art Ward, former mayor and member of the veterans council.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu took a moment to reflect, respect, and remember the heroes of the past, as well as the new heroes of the future. She recognized the rich history of the city’s residents who served in various wars, and those working the frontlines as healthcare workers and first responders.
“We look forward to emerging from this conflict as we have from previous ones, more resilient and united as a community,” she said.
Korean War Veteran Omer Deabay, 90, was a guest speaker and shared his experiences. He went missing in action for three days in 1952 as an Army first sergeant of C Company, 27th Infantry Division. He is the recipient of three Purple Hearts, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, two Bronze Service Stars, a Combat infantry Badge 1st Award and a United Nations Service Medal.
He brushed off the council’s “attempt” to make a hero out of him and said he went off to Korea just like everyone else did and things happened to him the way it would happen to anybody.
“We’re not any more one hero than another when it comes to veterans. You guys all served, you stood up to the plate when it came time that our country needed us. We just have to thank all veterans for being so good, especially in the city of Bristol,” he said.
Contact Catherine Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org