98°F
weather icon Clear

Memorial Day tradition carries on in Las Vegas amid pandemic

Updated May 25, 2020 - 8:29 am

On a typical Friday before Memorial Day, retired Army Lt. Steve Seiden would have had hundreds of veterans and volunteers helping him plant flags on the gravestones of the fallen.

But this year, it was just Seiden and 10 other members of the Jewish War Veterans Post 64 who planted about 130 miniature U.S. flags at Bunkers’ Eden Vale Memorial Park cemetery in Las Vegas, as they have done for the past 15 years.

“It dresses up the whole cemetery,” Seiden said of the flag planting, adjusting his camo-style face mask while gripping a stockpile of flags with his blue-gloved hands. “This year is very awkward, very difficult. But it’s a tradition, and we’re honoring veterans that deserve it.”

Seiden also is president of the Kline Veterans Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial support to needy veterans.

Typically, this is a busy time for the Jewish War Veterans post, as members usually conduct one of their annual poppy drives to raise money. But like many other events planned around the Memorial Day weekend, it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So were annual flag planting and wreath-laying ceremonies at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City and the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley.

Instead, the state Department of Veterans Services on Friday morning posted two videos from the cemeteries on its website, veterans.nv.gov, showing veterans and family members, from World War II to present day, placing flowers and other tokens of respect at the final resting places of veterans.

The videos also feature the placing of a wreath by Gov. Steve Sisolak at the Battle Born Memorial in Carson City and the playing of taps at the end.

“Not even a pandemic will stop us from honoring those who served and sacrificed for our country. While we may be physically separated from each other, sharing the tradition of honoring those who gave their lives for our freedom brings us closer together in spirit,” Sisolak wrote in a statement.

The department plans to release two more videos Monday of each veterans cemetery conducting a brief wreath laying ceremony, accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of taps.

There are some recurring public Memorial Day events scheduled for Monday, but they have been scaled back.

Former Army Sgt. Roger Henning of American Legion Post 76 said about 300 people attended or participated in the post’s annual ceremony at Lake Sahara South Park last year.

For the 18th annual event this year, at 9:30 a.m., organizers will cut the program from an hour to 15 minutes and limit participation to fewer than 10 people. They will be putting up barriers to separate ceremony participants from bystanders, who will be asked to practice social distancing.

“We downsized dramatically,” Henning said, noting that the color guard will be just four people.

The World War II veteran who started the tradition, Jack Ford, will still place a wreath on the water — a Navy tradition — but other parts of the ceremony, such as the flag posting and flag folding — will be curtailed.

“We had to do it still, though, just so we could remember all the ones that we lost, all the ones who couldn’t come home,” Henning said. “It sort of chokes me up, when you think about the millions of Americans in the wars all the way from Revolutionary through now that have given their life to defend our way of life.”

With many other events canceled, the Las Vegas Cruisin’ Association decided to put on its first socially distant car cruise on the Strip, called Hot Rods for Heroes. About 130 cars are expected for the procession, starting at 11:30 a.m. Monday at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets South.

“I know this virus has hurt a lot of people, and Vegas is very patriotic. We should be thankful for the men and women who have served in the military,” Air Force veteran Art Kam said. “It’s about remembering the men and women who died serving the United States of America.”

At Eden Vale cemetery on Friday, 12-year-old Emma Rosenblum, whose bat mitzvah had been scheduled that day before being canceled, decided to volunteer to plant the flags as a way of giving back.

With her was a friend, Jessie Fulton, and Fulton’s grandfather, retired Army Cpl. Howard Greenspon, who shed a tear as he thought about the dozen comrades he lost in the Vietnam War.

Nearby, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mort Friedlander, one of the founders of the Kline Fund and a fellow member of the Jewish War Veterans post, stopped at the gravestone of a World War II veteran.

He said that despite the increased demand for homeless veterans services amid the pandemic, donations to the organization have gone down. They want to continue to offer services.

“We want to help veterans anyway we can. And today, the Jewish war veterans are standing down for our fallen comrades,” said the 87-year-old, who was recently told by the state Department of Veterans Services that he will be named the June Veteran of the Month.

“… We pay our honor to those who passed before us.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Jara says time for debate is over on CCSD reopening plan - VIDEO
With pressure growing for the Clark County School District to modify its school reopening plan, Superintendent Jesus Jara said Tuesday that the time has come to move forward on the existing blueprint. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
RTC considers route changes as pandemic affects ridership, revenue - Video
Stung by a drop in public bus ridership because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is considering systemwide service changes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)v
Fireworks light up Las Vegas - Video
Las Vegas celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks lighting up the entire valley. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fireworks in the Moapa sky - Video
Fireworks explode near Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza during Fourth of July festivities in Moapa, northwest of Las Vegas, on Saturday, July 4, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fourth of July fireworks at Plaza in downtown Las Vegas - Video
Fourth of July fireworks at the Plaza casino lit up the night sky in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas teen shares COVID-19 story on social media - Video
Kaydee Asher speaks with the RJ about what it's like having COVID-19, how she may have contracted the virus, and how she's using her platform to tell other young people to be safe. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police officer Shay Mikalonis moved to spinal cord center.
Paralyzed Las Vegas police officer Shay Mikalonis was being transferred to an out-of-state medical facility Wednesday morning for treatment of a severe spinal cord injury. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mahagony fire timelapse
Timelapse of Mt.Charleston Mahogany fire as seen from Skye Canyon. (Andrea Leal)
Summerlin will have virtual 4th of July parade - Video
The Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade will be held virtually this year on July 4. Golden Knights players Nate Schmidt and Alec Martinez will take part. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Effort to fight illegal fireworks resumes for Fourth of July (PSAs) - Video
Law enforcement in Clark County will take part in the interagency "You Light It, We Write It” campaign to crack down on the use of illegal fireworks in the Las Vegas Valley this Fourth of July. (Clark County)
Henderson police officers test positive for COVID-19 - Video
Two officers with the Henderson Police Department received positive test results for coronavirus on June 21, 2020. The officers were assigned to the Training and Development Unit. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tech problems on DMV website cause long lines - Video
Las Vegas residents have been standing in line for hours frustrated because they can't make an appointment on the Department of Motor Vehicles website due to technical issues. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News COVID-19 testing site opening at Texas Station - Video
The Texas Station site is operating in addition to the drive-thru testing site in the UNLV Tropicana parking garage next to the Thomas & Mack Center. Both sites are operated by Clark County and University Medical Center in partnership with the Nevada National Guard. (Renee Summerour and Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Lives Matter protest mural on Juneteenth - Video
Amy Van Rosen with the Good All Day Collective joins volunteers to create a Black Lives Matter protest mural on the Majestic Repertory Theatre building in downtown Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada tribal nations keep their people safe from coronavirus - Video
Tribal members at Walker River Paiute Tribe's Walker River Indian Reservation in Schurz and at Reno-Sparks Indian Colony's Hungry Valley Reservation take care of their own in the age of coronavirus. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Victims of the Alpine fire discuss life after 6 months - Video
Residents who were victims in the Alpine Apartment Fire on Dec. 21 recall what happened and some of the struggles they are facing after six months. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family welcomes baby during pandemic in Spain - Video
Henderson native Air Force Maj. Chris Stein, stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain, and his wife dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, diagnoses for COVID-19 and having an unexpected home birth for their third child. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jara to present school reopening plan to CCSD board next week - VIDEO
A much-anticipated plan for reopening doors at the Clark County School District will come before the board next week, according to Superintendent Jesus Jara.
Foster mom corrals an armful of kids at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children - Video
Tytaliayah Parker cares her five foster kids and her biological daughter at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children in Boulder City. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Resident of apartment complex where fire occurred said he didn’t hear fire alarm - Video
Travis Mattsson, who has lived at Siegel Suites Las Vegas Boulevard for a year, said he didn’t hear a fire alarm in his unit. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vigil held in downtown Las Vegas - VIDEO
The Forced Trajectory Project conducted a vigil downtown on Saturday evening to honor those lost to police violence. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteer drivers deliver restaurant-quality meals to those in need - Video
Graffiti Bao, a restaurant, is partnering with Delivering with Dignity to provide restaurant-quality meals to those in need. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Black Lives Matter, anti-racism rally held in Las Vegas - Video
More than 1,000 people protested peacefully in Kianga Isoke Palacio Park near Doolittle Community Center in the Historic Westside neighborhood of Las Vegas on Friday night, June 5. It was a Black Lives Matter rally and candlelight vigil for George Floyd and other black Americans who have died in confrontations with police. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Soul City WiFi Project brings free internet to Historic Westside Las Vegas - Video
Steven Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation speaks at a press conference about the creation of a free WiFi network to help underserved communities, followed by a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Academic Excellence Awards 2020 - Video
The Las Vegas Review Journal's Academic Excellence program is designed to recognized 1st thru 12th grade students in Southern Nevada who exhibit academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership in and out of the classroom.
A motorist driving recklessly lost control of their vehicle and smashed into a house
Las Vegas police said a motorist driving recklessly lost control of their vehicle, which then smashed into a house at 401 South Torrey Pines Drive. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Las Vegas police briefing on shooting during Black Lives Matter protest
Sheriff Joe Lombardo briefs the media on shootings during the Black Lives Matter protest that left one man dead and a Metro officer in critical condition on Monday, June 1, 2020.
Areas of Red Rock Canyon reopen - Video
The BLM Southern Nevada District reopened access to areas of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on June 1, 2020, including; Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive, Red Rock Overlook, Late Night Trailhead, Red Spring Boardwalk, Calico Basin and Kraft Mountain Trailheads. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rebel store looted
The manager of a Rebel gas station talks about looting at the Tropicana and Koval store over the weekend. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fremont Street Experience is counting down to reopening - Video
A countdown clock is running for the reopening of the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Friday afternoon, May 29, 2020. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Train carrying decommissioned nuclear reactor passes through Las Vegas - VIDEO
The train carrying a decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel from Southern California is passing through Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southern Nevada Health District COVID-19 update
Southern Nevada Health District staff conduct a video briefing to provide updates about the public health agency’s COVID-19 response in Clark County.
Neighborhood rallies behind grad amid the coronavirus lockdown
Riley Lynn Thacker's mom put a sign in their yard to congratulate her daughter completing her senior year and neighbors followed suit. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST