BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — This is the busiest weekend of the year for national cemeteries, as families visit to pay respect to those who served on Memorial Day. The cemetery is going to be open the whole weekend. But as you might expect, there will be some changes to their regular memorial day schedule.
“I come to work every day in awe of all of these heroes that are laid to rest here, it’s an absolute honor to pay tribute to them,” said Randy Heard, Director of the cemetery.
Heard is a navy veteran and he says although it’s important for people to pay their respects throughout Memorial Day weekend, he wants to ensure people are visiting safely. He says usually upwards of 10,000 people visit during this time of year.
“We would normally have upwards of 1,000 people just for the memorial day ceremony," he said.
Due to current CDC guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, public events typically associated with Memorial Day, such as ceremonies and group placement of flags at grave sites, will not take place, officials said. Families and friends, however, may visit and place flowers and small flags at their veteran’s grave site. If you need help finding a grave, heard says to look it up in advance, because you will not be able to use their grave site location kiosk.
“That touch screen will not be available due to sanitation reasons," Heard said.
The National Cemetery Administration has a mobile grave locator that can be used to find graves ahead of time. And there is a way to pay respects digitally if you don't want to go to the cemetery in person. But if you do want to go in person, officials are asking the public to consider visiting Saturday or Sunday in order to avoid crowds on Memorial Day.
“We understand that you want to pay tribute and you want to honor those that are interred here but safety is always paramount," Heard said.