Memorial Day in Abington will be different; but not forgotten

On Monday, Abington will be observing Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.

However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to Memorial Day events in Abington have been made to simplify and focus on honoring the town’s Killed in Action with a small, quiet ceremony at Mt. Vernon Cemetery led by the town’s veterans’ organizations.

“We want to make sure this day is not forgotten amid everything that we’re going through right now,” said Commander Ken Coburn of the Abington American Legion, Lewis V. Dorsey, Post 112.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Vietnam Veterans Era Post 2, Staff Sgt. Richard A. Fitts Chapter, and the Abington American Legion Color Guards and Commanders will come together Monday at Mt. Vernon Cemetery for a ceremony, said Coburn.

For safety, due to the current pandemic, the groups have requested the public to stay at home. The ceremony will be recorded and broadcast later Abington Community Access & Media.

“What we want to walk away with is that we are remembering Memorial Day for what it is, which is to honor the war dead,” Coburn said.

The ceremony will begin with an opening prayer and brief introduction by Rev. Kristy Coburn from Abington’s United Church of Christ.

“We are going to read the names of all the war dead and ring the bell after each name as we have done the past couple of years,” Commander Coburn said.  “We will then do a firing of the guns, the playing of ‘Taps’ and then we will end with a prayer.”

“The plan is to tape the ceremony on Monday to primarily put it on the town’s public access channel (Comcast 13/Verizon 28), but eventually it will be uploaded to YouTube,” said Kevin Tocci, Executive Director of Abington Community Access and Media (Abington CAM).  “It will run multiple times that day and throughout the week too.” 

Normally, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Abington Troop 41 Boy Scouts, Pack 41 Cub Scouts, and Venturing Crew 41 would gather together and replace each of the flags on veterans’ graves that are missing or broken. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has extended closures of all scouting activities until at least May 31st due to the pandemic. 

However, to ensure the flags are still replaced, the adult scout leaders will be taking on this project this year.

“It still should be done,” said Chris Schultz, scoutmaster of Abington Troop 41, and chairman of the Abington Board of Health. “The Scouts have been doing the flags for the last 25 years.

“People are still going to be visiting those graves.”

Schultz and other scout leaders normally teach the younger scouts the importance of Memorial Day — that it’s not just the start of summer — during the flag replacement project. 

“We try to communicate to them the importance of recognizing the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces and how we do this service for the families left behind,” explained Shultz. “We usually give a talk before setting out to the cemetery to replace the flags. 

“Since our charter organization is the Legion, it’s especially important that we take the time to honor those who gave all.”

Written by Michele Christian