COVID-19 shuts down many Memorial Day tributes, including D.C.’s Poppy Wall of Honor

Posted at 11:40 AM, May 22, 2020

This Memorial Day, the National Mall in Washington D.C. will be empty. There will be no honor walls, no public tributes, no large crowds. Instead, many dedications in remembrance of our fallen will be virtual.

In years past, USAA’s Poppy Wall of Honor has been a stunning symbol, lighting up the day and the night sky. It's an emotional tribute.

“It’s very quiet. There are tears, they are struck and inspired. It’s hard not to be,” described retired Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy John Bird.

There will be no crews this year, spending countless hours putting the wall together.

Bird, who is now senior vice president for military affairs at USAA, says USAA's goal as always been about remembrance and awareness.

“Less than half of Americans really understand what Memorial Day is all about,” he said.

Bird says people seem to forget about the symbolic flower, which dates back to 1915 and World War One.

“An Army Canadian physician who had just buried a friend and happened to be a poetry person wrote a poem about his experience, and the man was buried in Flanders Field. He noticed poppies growing. He said the poppies blow among the crosses, row after row,” Bird said.

The poppy then became known worldwide.

“It’s a symbol not only in the US on Memorial Day, but Great Britain, Canada, Australia, they do it on different day, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Anzac Day,” he said.

Since no one can see the Poppy Wall of Honor in person this year, he says poppyinmemory.com is museum quality.

“The wall is a nice thing, but remembering, having the discussion with family members and friends, taking a moment to dedicate a poppy, virtually--which you can do that--somebody you know personally, or some hero you know of that was lost in conflict is a wonderful thing to do,” he said.

Bird is asking that everyone take some sort of action this Memorial Day, in their own way.

“On Memorial Day or on the weekend, while mattress sales and first day of summer are all great, take a few moments to remember, to reflect and think about the Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we could enjoy this weekend and all weekends with the wonderful freedoms we have,” Bird said.