KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For many people, Memorial Day is the first holiday in the past year that feels normal.
And hundreds visited the National WWI Museum and Memorial this weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, to pay their respects to those who died for their country.
For Army veterans Carolina and Jose Vargas, it’s important to teach their children about the meaning of the holiday.
“Memorial Day is to give remembrance to those that perished,” Jose Vargas said. “I know a lot of veterans, like us, we feel good when people recognize, but it’s not about the veterans, it’s about those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
This year’s ceremony and events were different than last year’s.
Matthew Naylor, president and CEO of the museum and memorial, said no one was allowed inside during last year’s ceremony, which was presented online.
“It’s really wonderful to have people back again,” Naylor said, “and there’s something about being together and community where we do this work of memory and honoring. It matters to us that we say their names.”
Keynote speaker Lt. Col. Dr. Eric Jacobson spoke about his time working overseas as a battalion surgeon. Jacobson served as director of medical operations at the Javits New York Medical Station, the temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
Jacobson said the experience of being on the frontlines of a pandemic for medical workers is much like the numbing experience military veterans face overseas.
The museum and memorial had a list of displays over the weekend, including the Flags of Forgotten Soldiers display near the front entrance. The 140 flags represent the number of veterans lost to suicide every week.
Air Force veteran Chet Wilson said he was glad to be able to experience the museum’s event in-person with his family.
“My son is just out of the Navy, and we wanted to be a part of the ceremony so that his kids could see that and maybe get a little bit more of the meaning instead of just being about hamburgers, hot dogs and a trip to the lake,” Wilson said.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas also spoke at the ceremony, which was moved indoors due to rain.
Those who missed Monday’s ceremony can watch it online.