COVID-19 can’t stop Dover Memorial Day remembrances

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen is flanked by his grandson Cooper Huttie and granddaughter Audrey Huttie after placing a wreath at the Triangle in honor of the veterans who gave their lives in service to the country on Memorial Day Monday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — While there was no formal ceremony where wreaths were laid, “Taps” did not ring out by a bugle and there was no 21-gun salute in downtown Dover this Memorial Day, many people still took the time to remember and honor those heroic military veterans who fought and died for the United States.

That included Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, who, flanked by his grandchildren Audrey and Cooper Huttie, placed a wreath in the Triangle near the corner of Loockerman and State streets, and another one at Kent County Veterans Memorial Park off South Little Creek Road, on an overcast Monday morning and saluted the fallen soldiers, even in the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

“It’s sad that we can’t have the service, but it reminds us that we need to focus on what is important in our lives because of the people that gave their lives for all of us that we’re still safe and secure even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Mayor Christiansen said. “Next year, we’re going to be here bigger and better and actually celebrate the holiday the way that it should be celebrated.

“We couldn’t pass up on behalf of the city, as mayor and council, presenting the wreath, as well as on behalf of the Dover Fire Department. We had a lot of our folks who served in the military and served in all the wars we’ve had recently who need to be honored.”

For Bill Hare, president of Dover City Council, the ceremony gives him goosebumps every year. He missed the chance to gather and salute the fallen veterans on Monday.

“It recognizes our veterans who fought and died for our country,” Mr. Hare said. “Without them, our country wouldn’t be where it is. I’m a veteran myself of Vietnam, so it means a lot for me. Without these people, the country wouldn’t be where we are today and have the freedoms that we have.”

Mayor Christiansen said that his “hero, my father” — U.S. Army Maj. Andre L. Christiansen — served in World War II and in Korea.

He said that’s one of the reasons he makes sure to let his grandchildren know about the heroes who fought and died for their country.

“It’s important for the young people to remember the folks who went before them, because if it weren’t for the sacrifices that they made from Concord and Lexington, to the sandy deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, that they’re free because of those people who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Mayor Christiansen.

Dover’s Memorial Day Ceremony is usually a collaborative effort put together by the Delaware Veterans Post No. 2 and the American Legion’s Walter Fox Post 2. It was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The most poignant and emotional part of the annual ceremony is always when the names of the deceased veterans from Kent County who had died over the past year are read one-by-one. Next year, that list will be two-fold.

At last year’s service, Jonathon Riggins, commander of the American Legion Walter L. Fox Post 2, and Lester Link, commander of Delaware Veterans Post 2, Inc., alternated in reading that list.

“It’s kind of emotional knowing that our generation now is making that list so much longer,” Mr. Riggins said last May.

Mr. Link said it is a difficult task for anyone to do.

The U.S. flag lists at half-staff at the Triangle near the intersection of Loockerman and State streets on Memorial Day Monday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)I

“It’s very somber, especially when there’s some names on that list that we’ve known for years,” he said, “and to stand up here and read their names off, it’s just a very somber experience.”

While the honor guard from Dover Air Force Base and other dignitaries were forced to miss this year’s canceled Memorial Day ceremony in Dover, the base’s Facebook page posted a video of Gen. Mark. A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking about the solemn occasion.

“This Memorial Day we pause to honor more than 1 million Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Gen. Milley said. “We remember their courage. We remember their selfless service and we remember how they lived. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the second World War, we are especially mindful of 400,000 Americans who have their last full measure of devotion to ensure that this Republic, for which we stand, shall never perish from the Earth.

“Since then, over 100,000 brave Americans gave their lives across the hills of Korea, and the jungles of Vietnam and the sands of the Middle East. Over a million and a half sustained physical wounds, and even more carry the invisible wounds of war. Today, we honor the extraordinary sacrifice of not only these servicemen, but also their families, especially our Gold Star families.”

He added, “Each individual loss brings untold grief. Each loss is a hope never realized. Each loss is a dream never reached. Everyone was a son or a daughter, a husband or a wife, a mother and a father. Each is a gaping hole of grief that can never be adequately filled. For the families of the fallen, every day is a Memorial Day.”