Suffolk Executive Bellone's attempt to continue Memorial Day events draws disagreement from Gold Star mother
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called on the VA to allow groups to place flags at national cemeteries in honor of Memorial Day -- but some families say it's not a good idea.
Bellone called on federal officials to reverse a decision to cancel flag placement at Calverton National and Long Island National cemeteries.
"We cannot allow this virus to stop us from honoring those who have sacrificed for our country," says Bellone.
As News 12 reported last week, the National Cemetery Administration announced the ban on the 25-year tradition due to the pandemic. But Bellone wrote to the VA asking it to allow local health officials to develop a safe flag placement plan.
Gold Star mother Michele McNaughton's son Staff Sgt. James McNaughton is buried at Calverton. She says safety of the volunteers involved should come first.
"I don't agree with it during this time while the pandemic is going on," says McNaughton. "Memorial Day is an important day for me yes, but to keep everybody safe and healthy then we can skip it."
Assistant Scout Master Charles Borghardt and his troop have been placing flags at Calverton for a decade. He says his volunteers can wear masks and modify the schedule to keep the tradition alive.
"I think that's the best way to approach this instead of just giving up and stopping it and ending a 25-year tradition," says Borghardt.
The National Cemetery Administration says it is sticking by its decision because the risk is too high.
In a statement, the agency said, "Counties in Long Island fall right behind New York City for the number of cases and deaths in the state of New York. Long Island has not yet met the state criteria for reopening, which is why limits on social gatherings on Long Island are still in place."
Calverton and Long Island National will be open Memorial Day Weekend for families to place flags at their loved one's graves.