Memorial Day: How the US military is marking the holiday overseas

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Memorial Day brings to mind hometown parades and barbeques, but how do troops posted overseas observe the holiday?

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

In past years, troops deployed in Afghanistan have held their own ceremonies, honoring comrades lost throughout the decades-long campaign. At Bagram Airfield, Afghan, U.S. and NATO service members would gather. 

With the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, it may prove difficult to continue observing those traditions, but a much older one will continue instead. 

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

Since then, troops gather at cemeteries that hold the remains of American soldiers who fell in World War I and World War II: the Ardennes, the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Flanders Field. The latter was the site of battles in World War I. 

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

American military cemeteries in France, Belgium and the Netherlands started reopening in May, but local governments will close them to the public during Memorial Day “out of an abundance of caution.” 

Instead, U.S. military planes will perform flyovers at ceremonies in Europe, to be streamed online by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Flyovers will occur in Germany, England and France on both Sunday and Monday in those countries, Stars & Stripes reported.

Ceremonies in France will also include pre-recorded remarks and benedictions to ensure that they  proceed even if coronavirus restrictions are stepped up.

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