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Arlington National Cemetery annual Veterans Day ceremony closed to public

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, conduct a change of guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. (National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Rivera Rebolledo, Puerto Rico National Guard Public Affairs Office)
November 10, 2020

The traditional Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery will be virtual this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release on the cemetery’s official website, Arlington National Cemetery will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 11 with strict social distancing guidelines and mask protocols.

The ceremony itself, however, will be closed to the public. Officials will instead live stream the ceremony honoring the nation’s 67th Veterans Day Observance honoring the men and women who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. military.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its partners will conduct the ceremony in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local government guidelines,” the statement read. “Our foremost concern is the health and safety of the veteran population and invited attendees.”

In September, Arlington National Cemetery reopened to the public after six months of being shut down due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the nearby amphitheater where the Veterans Day ceremony is held remains off-limits.

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A Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony will be conducted by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington at 11 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Robert Wilkie, will lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in commemoration of Veterans who have served in the United States military.

The live-streamed ceremony will be hosted by Major General Omar J. Jones will be adjusted from the usual ceremony to accommodate physical distancing in order to ensure the safety of participants.

The cemetery is the final resting place of over 400,000 American heroes. It is not clear if President Donald Trump will attend the ceremony.

In May, the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony was changed to a virtual event, however, Trump still participated. He later addressed the nation honoring the United State’s fallen heroes at Fort McHenry near Baltimore.

In the past, more than 5,000 visitors have attended Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery to watch the wreath-laying and a speech in the adjacent amphitheater, typically by the president.

“All visitors are to follow social distancing requirements and wear face coverings while on cemetery grounds,” the statement read. “Anyone not having a face covering in their possession at cemetery entry points will not be granted access to the cemetery. Please be patient as we anticipate increased vehicular traffic.”