COVID pandemic prompts changes to Memorial Day ceremonies at cemetery in Santa Ana

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- For 25 years, Fairhaven Memorial Park & Mortuary has hosted one of Orange County's largest Memorial Day ceremonies. But the coronavirus has forced organizers to plan a new way to mark the national holiday.

Every Memorial Day since 1978, Boy Scout troops have gone to the Santa Ana cemetery to place American flags on the individual graves.

With COVID-19 restrictions now in place, the scouts cannot go to the memorial park as a group. But they are still choosing to help individually.

"We heard that they're just doing it individually like this, so we just came out as a family," said Rich Keller, whose family has volunteered each year since 2010.

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Jeremy Keller said: "It's important to pay respect to our veterans."

After the word was put out about the need for volunteers, the response was "overwhelming," said Ruth Velez, Fairhaven's general manager.

In previous years, the park has typically hosted some 4,000 guests for its Memorial Day ceremonies. Staff say those people are again welcome this year, for a "drive-by tour of famous landmarks and historic moments" displayed throughout the cemetery.

"They can come through, they can grab a map and they can safely drive through without getting out of the car," said Velez. "And they can see some of the emblems that symbolize Memorial Day and what it means to us."

This Monday at 10 a.m., ABC7 Salutes will bring you live coverage of the Memorial Day ceremony at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. This year is different: Amid physical distancing guidelines, the public will not be able to attend in person. David Ono will emcee the event live from West Los Angeles.

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