BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Normally, by now, the Biloxi National Cemetery would be covered with thousands of American flags.
You won’t see that patriotic scene this year.
Like so many other Memorial Day traditions, COVID-19 forced officials to cancel the annual event, which draws hundreds of volunteers to place the flags at veterans’ graves. However, many still visited the cemetery Saturday to pay their respects.
For the McCaslands, Memorial Day holds a lot of meaning.
It's an opportunity to honor and remember their son, a fallen Army soldier.
“He was a great father, husband, brother, son, and everybody just has nothing but the nicest things to say about him, and we just keep his memory alive," said Billy McCasland.
In years past, they joined the hundreds of volunteers who come out to the Biloxi National Cemetery to place more than 23,000 flags at the gravesites. In fact, it was a tradition that they did every year with their son until his death.
Even with the event canceled, the McCaslands felt it still important to take the time to salute fallen heroes.
“It’s very quiet out here. I was hoping to see a lot more people out here, but we’re going to do what we can and follow the guidelines we are given, but we’re still out here and glad to be out here to honor all of our veterans," McCasland said.
That desire to honor all of our fallen veterans drew people throughout the day to the cemetery.
One couple even took it upon themselves to place dozens of flags at as many graves as they could.
Even without the thousands of flags dotting the landscape, the moment to honor these fallen military heroes is not diminished, especially for those with family members and friends buried here.
“These people were very present in our lives, even though they’re no longer here in body, but they are still present in the spirit, and it’s history, it’s love," said Gabriella Brown.
It’s a Memorial Day weekend that looks different, but its significance remains the same.
“It’s a day to honor the fallen, honor people who gave their lives for a cause," said Jack Meynardie, who came to visit the graves of his grandparents.
The Biloxi National Ceremony also canceled its public memorial this year, typically held every year on Memorial Day.