Arlington National Cemetery will stay closed to general public over Memorial Day weekend

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Arlington National Cemetery will be open to families of fallen troops buried there over the Memorial Day weekend but not to the rest of the general public, site officials announced Friday.

In addition, those allowed into the historic site will be limited to visits of loved ones’ graves and will not be permitted to tour the grounds of the Virginia cemetery.

“We are expecting several thousand family pass holders to visit their loved ones graves this Memorial Day weekend,” said Arlington National Cemetery Superintendent Charles “Ray” Alexander Jr. in a statement. “Protecting the health of our employees, service members, contractors and our visitors is paramount.”

The announcement comes just days after Veterans Affairs officials announced that they will open most national veterans cemeteries to the public for the Memorial Day weekend, but will discourage visitors from coming at high-traffic times and insist on social distancing while at the sites.

Wreath-laying ceremonies at the veterans burial grounds will be held but without any public crowds.

Arlington National Cemetery, which in a typical year welcomes more than three million visitors, is run by the Department of the Army and has limited access to the site over the last two months to employees and families alone.

Families that are allowed on the site will be required to wear a face mask and maintain six-feet of distance from other visitors whenever possible. The cemetery will be accessible from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the holiday weekend, but only the Memorial Avenue gate at the main entrance of the cemetery will be open.

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Cemetery officials said they will be producing “multi-media virtual visitation” throughout the weekend, available through their web site and social media.

Thousands of military sites and national parks have been shuttered in recent weeks in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 1.3 million Americans and caused more than 84,000 deaths nationwide.

The 154-year-old Arlington National Cemetery, which sits just a few miles away from the Pentagon, was originally established as an overflow site for mounting Civil War casualties but has evolved into one of the most best-known and hallowed military sites in America.

About

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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