Memorial Day events refocus on fallen soldiers’ sacrifice

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In Grand Rapids, the annual parade held on the traditional Memorial Day date of May 30 won’t be held this year because of pandemic concerns.

The United Veterans Council of Kent County, which represents some 50 veterans organizations throughout the area, will instead hold virtual events. It has also teamed with the city of Grand Rapids and private building owners to honor the fallen. The Amway Hotel, McKay Tower and the Blue Bridge will be among the downtown landmarks bathed in red, white and blue lights starting Friday and running through Monday.

“They’re asking people to use patriotic colors on their houses and on their lawns. Basically, we try to get the patriotism that this Memorial Day should have,” Eric Nelson, commander of the United Veterans Council of Kent County, said.

Changes are also coming to Walker. Long known for one of the area’s largest Memorial Day parades, stretching down Lake Michigan Drive through Standale, city leaders had originally canceled this year’s parade out of COVID-19 worries. That changed as virus numbers began to stabilize.

“Very special shout out to the residents of Walker: Our vaccination rates eclipsed the 70% mark,” Walker Mayor Gary Carey said.

The parade has been revived, but with a new route. It will begin at noon Monday at Walker City Hall amd head down Remembrance Road to Walker Village Drive. The 1.5 mile route will allow more room for social distancing.

The changes also mark a sort of reset to the way Walker honors those who died in service to our country. There won’t be any candy throwing or politicians shaking hands along the route. Parade participants will stay in their vehicles. The new route also has a special meaning. Remembrance Road was named in honor of World War I Veterans.

“We feel by hitting that reset button, bringing it back to Remembrance Road, probably helps us remind ourselves of what that day really is,” Carey said.

It’s an example that while the events have changed, the reason behind them has not. As you enjoy the first unofficial day of summer, veterans groups want you to take time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“The day is a day of thinking about the people that died, basically so that we could throw that steak on the grill whenever we want to,” Nelson said.

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