Despite COVID-19 cancellations, dozens spend Memorial Day at New Albany National Cemetery

Published: May. 31, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WAVE) - Walking slowly, with flowers and flags in her hands, Sandra Beauchemin looked for her husband Bernard.

“Here he is; here he is,” she said as she approached the headstone.

The Beauchemins were married for 46 years. Bernard spent eight of them as a mechanic in the United States Air Force, serving across the world.

Most notably, he spent several years in Vietnam, where Beauchemin said he was exposed to Agent Orange. He died in 2018.

On Monday, Beauchemin saw his name engraved in the stone, and had to fight back tears.

“He was in the Air Force eight years in Thailand and Vietnam,” Beauchemin said. “[He] came back with Agent Orange exposure and lived for years suffering, but never complained.”

Beauchemin was joined by dozens at the New Albany National Cemetery on Monday.

Jaycob Patterson was there with his grandfather, a U.S. Army veteran, and his 3-year-old son. He said their trip to the cemetery has become a yearly Memorial Day tradition.

“Because you teach them young, sir,” Patterson said. “You got to make sure that they know why they’re here and why they can do what they do every day. If you show them that, then it might give them something to hold on to in the future.”

For the second straight year, COVID-19 forced several cemeteries, including New Albany National Cemetery, Zachary Taylor National Cemetery and Cave Hill Cemetery, to cancel formal Memorial Day ceremonies. But, the virus could not stop the show of support from the community.

“When I see all these flags and these headstones, I think about every single soldier that might’ve put their life on the line and that did,” Patterson said. “And I think they did an amazing thing.”

Beauchemin said she made a special point to come to the cemetery Monday, and said the lines of stones and flags should remind everyone of the sacrifice her husband, and thousands of others, made for our country.

“Always, always the white stones, each one, I can never forget is a person, a human that sacrificed their life for all of us and for our country,” Beauchemin said. “No matter what the war, no matter what the battle, no matter what the time, they were willing, willing to sacrifice.”

Employees at the New Albany National Cemetery said 7,000 to 9,000 people are buried there.

They hope to bring back a formal Memorial Day ceremony in 2022.

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