Those national cemeteries will remain open to the public. However, events that court crowds — such as larger groups placing flags at grave sites — are not allowed because of restrictions to combat COVID-19.
Smaller families and individuals will still be able to place flags or lay wreaths at those sites.
“The traditions associated with this reverent day are deeply important to those who have lost loved ones and to all communities who wish to pay their respects,” Mast wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
“Unfortunately, a decision made recently by the Department of Veterans Affairs will restrict access to these events and traditions. As a result, while Americans will still come together, they will not be able to attend memorial services or volunteer to place American flags at the national cemeteries run by your agency. I am writing to urge you to reverse this decision.”
Mast argued that with the country beginning a return to normalcy, Memorial Day Weekend ceremonies should be allowed.
“With many parts of our country now in the process of a phased reopening, I find it appalling that beaches will be open for the holiday but that access to VA cemeteries will remain restricted,” Mast said.
“Every person in our country, especially on a day like Memorial Day, should have the freedom to mourn and pay their respects in the manner they judge is best for themselves and their groups.”
The Congressman from Florida’s 18th Congressional District then recounted a previous experience where he asked his wife to let him be alone during a past Memorial Day event.
“That year, I asked that she stay home with our two little boys so that I could attend the ceremonies by myself,” Mast recalled.
“I made this selfish request because I didn’t want my boys to see me in pain, and I didn’t want my wife to have to answer the question, ‘Why is daddy crying?’ I regret this moment, because at the time, I mistook those tears for weakness. I now realize that those tears represent strength.”
Mast is an Army veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan as a bomb disposal expert.