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Arlington National Cemetery ignited a firestorm of backlash after announcing that it was canceling the annual Wreaths Across America event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Citing the risks of spreading the virus, the decision was explained in a press release on Monday announcing the cancellation of the tradition and setting off a wave of criticism. U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw was among countless lawmakers, veterans and others denouncing the move and calling for the decision to be reversed.
The event, which takes place every December, is a coordinated effort of multiple wreath-laying ceremonies taking place at more than 2,100 locations across the nation. The decision to cancel it for fears over a virus left many shaking their heads.
“You’ve got a situation where you take a wreath, and you go and lay it on a headstone to honor the fallen. You’re outside. You’re not near anybody,” Crenshaw said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday. “Why would you choose emotional reasoning over sophisticated, rational reasoning? I want to hear that from them I want to hear why we shouldn’t honor the fallen, I want to hear their scientific reasoning for it.”
(Source: Fox News)
“This decision to cancel #wreathsacrossamerica must be reversed immediately. Critical thinking must win out over emotion. Large areas, outside and well spaced, with masks on, is perfectly safe. Our fallen deserve to be remembered,” the Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL tweeted in response to the announcement by Arlington National Cemetery.
This decision to cancel #wreathsacrossamerica must be reversed immediately. Critical thinking must win out over emotion. Large areas, outside and well spaced, with masks on, is perfectly safe. Our fallen deserve to be remembered.
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) November 17, 2020
“I encourage Army leaders to reconsider this decision. Thousands of people have marched in DC streets the past couple weekends for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Surely volunteers can responsibly place wreaths on the graves of our fallen heroes at Arlington,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted.
“WOW! This is ABSURD. How dare you. Signed, the mom of a man BURIED there!” Gold Star Mother Karen Vaughn tweeted in response to the decision.
Her son Aaron Vaughn, who is buried in Arlington, was killed in Afghanistan when his Chinook helicopter was shot down nearly ten years ago.
WOW! This is ABSURD. How dare you. Signed, the mom of a man BURIED there! https://t.co/Vk3ThF73JQ
— Karen Vaughn (@KarenVaughn_GSM) November 16, 2020
“Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the National Capital Region, it is with great regret that Arlington National Cemetery is canceling Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery on December 19, 2020,” the press release from Arlington read.
“Following a thorough analysis of the annual Wreaths Across America Wreaths-In event this year, and in close collaboration with the Joint Task Force, National Capital Region, we determined that we could not implement sufficient controls to mitigate the risks associated with hosting an event of this size under current and forecasted infection and transmission rates, while still conducting a respectful and honorable public event,” the press release continued.
Karen Durham-Aguilera, the Executive Director of the Office of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery explained that it was not an easy decision to make.
“We did not make this decision lightly. Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest,” she said.
“We reviewed various options to safely execute this long standing event and held numerous consultations with WAA leadership and local government and public health officials,” she added. “We understand that although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event.”
But many did not see anything but a double standard, including Meghan McCain, a co-host on ABC’s “The View” and daughter of the late Sen. John McCain, a US Navy officer and Vietnam War-era POW .
“This is neither understandable nor acceptable! THEY sacrificed. We can’t. Some things should happen at all costs – even in covid,” McCain tweeted Tuesday. “If you can protest in giant masses, go to strip clubs and casinos, we can figure out a way not to cancel wreaths across America!”
This is neither understandable nor acceptable! THEY sacrificed. We can’t. Some things should happen at all costs – even in covid.
If you can protest in giant masses, go to strip clubs and casinos, we can figure out a way not to cancel wreaths across America! https://t.co/2FmJLh4ggf
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) November 17, 2020
The criticism continued to pour in on social media where the unpopular decision was repeatedly blasted.
“The United States Government asked 20-year-old soldiers in 1944 to risk everything to fight Nazis and save the world, but won’t ask 20-year-old civilians in 2020 to honor those veterans and take precautions from the coronavirus,” U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina observed in a tweet.
“What? This involves laying wreaths on the headstones of Americans who sacrificed a lot more than going outside. I’m certain there are many volunteers who stand ready to safely help honor America’s heroes,” radio host and editor Vince Coglianese tweeted.
“Really sorry to read this. My family looks forward to kicking off Christmas by honoring those who served and learning about their service while laying wreaths,” author and radio host Dana Loesch wrote.
My brother is in Section 60. He was killed in Afghanistan just before Christmas. He sacrificed his life for this country. This is the one event that has brought comfort to our family- and so many others. Unacceptable. People live too much in fear.
— Renee Nickell🇺🇸 (@RMNickell) November 17, 2020
Disgusting. Because wearing masks and keeping social distancing is that hard? What about when our fallen had to storm the beaches in Normandy, or walk through the flooded rainforests of Vietnam? Being blown up by an IED in Iraq? And we can’t even honor them for that.
— Mitchell Zabel (@mitchzabel) November 17, 2020
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) November 17, 2020
**Update: Apparently the backlash made a difference. The office of the Secretary of the Army later announced that they will host Wreaths Across America, safely.
I have directed Arlington National Cemetery to safely host Wreaths Across America. We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground.
— SecArmy (@SecArmy) November 17, 2020
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