Davis Urges VA to Relax Rules on Groups Placing Flags at Veterans' Gravesites Ahead of Memorial Day
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill) is urging the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration to relax rules prohibiting groups from placing flags at veterans' gravesites ahead of Memorial Day. Davis has been contacted by several constituents concerning rules in place that prohibit groups from placing flags at veterans' gravesites due to COVID-19.
"Each year, Americans across the country volunteer to place flags at the gravesites of our fallen to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and it's a tradition that should be allowed to continue no matter what," said Davis. "I understand safety concerns due to COVID-19, but I am confident there is a way for groups to practice proper social distancing guidelines and take necessary safety precautions while placing flags. I'm hoping the VA will reconsider and instead take a regional approach as many of our states have. The VA should provide guidelines and allow each individual cemetery to make the decision that is best for their area. Let's continue to allow Americans to show their appreciation for every hero we've lost."
After reaching out to the VA National Cemetery Administration and being referred back to these strict guidelines, Davis has written directly to the Secretary of the VA with the following letter:
The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary
Dear Secretary Wilkie,
As millions of Americans look to honor our nation’s fallen this Memorial Day, I write to you today to request that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reconsider their decision not to allow the “mass placement and retrieval of gravesite flags by any groups,” as stated on the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) website.
I urge you to reconsider the complete prohibition on placement and retrieval of flags by any groups and instead allow each individual NCA cemetery to consult with their own state and local health officials to determine what would be the best practice for their own individual community. Not every community is experiencing the same level of COVID-19 cases and many states continue to reopen allowing people to go visit parks, beaches, and restaurants over this holiday weekend. Just as I’m asking my own Governor to reopen the State of Illinois on a regional basis, I’m asking you take those same principles into account when implementing this policy.
Instead of a blanket, one-size-fits-all rule, the VA should empower each cemetery to work with their local health departments and make their own decisions while adhering to CDC guidelines, including all visitors maintaining a safe social distance. Contrary to the NCA’s website, it is possible for a group of people to socially distance and follow CDC guidelines in a National Cemetery.
Placing flags at each veterans’ gravesite is an important symbol of a grateful nation and we should allow this tradition to continue in a safe manor. I would ask that your administration work to provide guidance to help cemeteries across the nation continue to honor our fallen this Memorial Day. Thank you for your attention to this vitally important matter.Sincerely,