Memorial Day, a day to honor those who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. armed forces, was a little different—and more modest—this year due to COVID-19 protocols.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios led the Memorial Day ceremony in the CNMI yesterday at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi that was highlighted by a wreath-laying ceremony and short prayers.
Torres and Palacios were joined yesterday by U.S. Army Reserve soldiers, members of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, lawmakers, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, and families of fallen veterans.
“We respect those who have been laid here and their spouses, and never to forget what our family and our spouses also sacrifice for us to receive the freedom that we enjoy today and to appreciate our own armed forces,” said Torres in his short speech.
In a statement later from the Office of the Governor, Torres stated that it is “our sacred duty to honor and remember our brave heroes who gave their all devotion in defense for our country, freedom, and everything we hold dearly.
“We salute every soldier who served to protect our islands, and we offer a renewed call toward friendship and peace. Our fallen heroes have given us the opportunity to make the Marianas better for generations to come,” Torres added. “We join the families of our heroes to pay tribute to their service and remember their sacrifices. While we cannot honor their memory physically together like we usually do, we keep every family in our prayers.”
Apatang, who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, said that Memorial Day is a very special day for him. “Today is a very special day for me, especially as a veteran and a combat vet. I know how it is in the combat field and a lot of my buddies have passed on,” said Apatang. “This day, we honor them for sacrificing their lives for our freedom, and we really appreciate that, and we send prayers for them and the family members who are still grieving.”
Apatang remembers those who have passed on, not only today but every day and “because of them, we are enjoying the freedom that we have now.”
Separately, House vice speaker Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) said, “Memorial Day is a day that every year we pay gratitude to our fallen comrades, the fallen braves, who have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom which we enjoy today and every day. We also pay gratitude to the families of our fallen braves because they too sacrifice while their spouses or families who are serving.”
Joaquin I. Deleon Guerrero, who has served six years in the U.S. Army, was visiting his wife who is buried at the Veterans Cemetery. “It’s the least we can do, which is lay the wreath. It’s very little but at least we can do [even with] our situation” he said.
Deleon Guerrero remembers past Memorial Days that bring in huge crowds. “Normally, this is a huge crowd, but now it’s very minimal, and it looks like people are going with the social distance, the masks, and everything, which is good,” Deleon Guerrero added. He also thanked Torres for making it possible.