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Remember fallen in a new way, and look toward future

Today we mark Memorial Day, the national observance in which we to pay homage to those who’ve died in military service to our country.

As we honor our fallen service men and women, many of us also use the opportunity to remember our deceased loved ones.

This year, many of us will be grieving the passing of family members due to the coronavirus. Sadly, they may have been forced to grieve at a distance, say goodbyes alone at the casket or, worse, remotely.

Past Memorial Days, we worried about traffic safety. But this year, it’s personal safety.

Like everything this spring, Memorial Day will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the regular Mahoning Valley events typically held to honor the dead have been canceled or moved to online platforms. Those that still are going forward locally will not involve public gatherings.

Organizations that put together such annual events have found new ways to pay homage to those who have served our nation this year.

Local events this weekend may involve events in which onlookers may attend only inside the safety of their vehicles, including drive-by honors. Some events and salutes will be held without inviting the public.

Some volunteers independently and by using social distancing have placed flags on area military graves. Sadly, though, some graves here and elsewhere simply won’t be marked this year.

The situation this holiday is sad and unfortunate. But it should not stop us from paying respects. Many of us still will visit cemeteries to do so, flowers in hand, one-sided conversations to be had.

We are pleased that some solemn events will go forward, albeit with limited, smaller gatherings. Certainly, we must never forget.

On a lighter note, Memorial Day weekend also often serves as the unofficial kickoff of the summer season.

It’s a day we typically enjoy outdoor barbeques, gatherings with family and friends and when we finally feel we can leave the cold of winter and spring behind us to start thinking about warmer weather and the things to come this summer.

While we must remain cautious and tread with great care, this holiday weekend, we not only can start thinking about heading into summer, but we also may start thinking about emerging from lockdowns and quarantines of past months.

Finally, businesses long shuttered due to the governor’s stay-at-home orders are slowly reopening to the public. Restaurants and bars will reopen this week. Hair salons opened in past days. “Nonessential” retailers are opening, and slowly the state is getting back to business.

Yes, there will be new restrictions that may include limitations on the number of people who may come inside, masks may be required and certainly more spacing between customers and guests will be a new part of life.

But as we move forward, let’s remember that we must follow the guidance in order to stay safe, so that we don’t relapse with a new wave of illness and shutdown.

This Memorial Day holiday, pay homage to those who have served and passed. Do it alone or with a small group. Be solemn. Offer a moment of silence or a prayer of remembrance and gratitude.

And enjoy your family activities, also with care and in small groups. And then look forward to the new opportunities that summer will bring, provided we remain cautious.

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day holiday.

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