Memorial Day: How the U.S. military marks overseas vacations


Memorial Day is reminiscent of hometown parades and barbecues, but how do troops stationed overseas observe the holiday?

The holiday is a time to remember those who have fallen in the service of the United States Army, and no one feels this loss more deeply than the families of these soldiers and the enlisted men and women serving in hot spots around the world.

In recent years, troops deployed in Afghanistan have organized their own ceremonies, in honor of comrades lost during the decades-long campaign. At Bagram Airfield, Afghan, American and NATO military would meet.

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With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, it may prove difficult to continue to observe these traditions, but a much older one will continue instead.

In Europe, American troops observed traditions in Belgium as early as 1923 when the Paris Memorial Day Committee changed its name to American Overseas Memorial Day Association (AOMDA).

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Since then, the troops have gathered in the cemeteries that house the remains of American soldiers who fell during the First and Second World Wars: the Ardennes, the Henri-Chapelle American cemetery and the Champ de Flandre. The latter was the scene of battles during the First World War.

This year, due to the pandemic, in-person ceremonies will be replaced by online tributes, with some members still performing the ceremony on-site while others will join virtually at memorialdayonline.com.

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US military cemeteries in France, Belgium and the Netherlands began reopening in May, but local governments will close them to the public on Memorial Day “out of caution.”

Instead, US military planes will conduct overflights at ceremonies in Europe, which will be broadcast online by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Overflights will take place in Germany, England and France on Sunday and Monday in those countries, Stars & Stripes reported.

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Ceremonies in France will also include pre-recorded remarks and blessings to ensure they take place even as coronavirus restrictions are tightened.

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