Wood National Cemetery halts public ceremony, remains open for people to privately pay respects

MILWAUKEE -- The coronavirus pandemic may be canceling many Memorial Day traditions, but the staff at Wood National Cemetery made sure there were still ways for people to pay their respects.

Wood National Cemetery on Memorial Day

"For those of us who have served or have loved ones who served, the wreath-laying is just a solemn moment of silence, respect and reflection," said Gary Kunich, Milwaukee VA spokesman.

Normally, thousands of people witness this moment, but in 2020 -- there were around a dozen. Only the media and VA staff were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was a very tough decision that was made nationally for all national cemeteries, but we would never let this day go by without taking a moment to honor the many sacrifices, the men and women who died for our country," Kunich said.

Wood National Cemetery on Memorial Day

Anna and Richard Chojnacki didn't let the day go by either.

"In the midst of all your celebrating of brats and beer, take just a moment, and this is our moment, just to come and do this," Anna Chojnacki said.

Wood National Cemetery on Memorial Day

Richard served in the Navy. Their daughter is in the Air Force. They wanted to make sure the day's meaning didn't get lost amidst the pandemic.

Wood National Cemetery on Memorial Day

"We have friends that have served that have had issues, you know, so it kind tugs on your heartstrings when the one day out of the year to give these people respect, the COVID thing kind of put a kibosh on it," Anna Chojnacki said.

While there was no public ceremony, the cemetery stayed open so people could do things just like this -- privately remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day.

"We still need to take the time to remember who has fallen to give us the freedom that we have," Richard Chojnacki said.