CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic changed, but could not cancel an annual salute to our war dead in Rockland County.

It was a tribute to those who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy, but too seldom reflect upon. Memorial Day weekend Friday would usually bring hundreds to a monument in Clarkstown.

But as CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, this time around the ritual was familiar — with wreaths and a rifle salute — but the social distancing measures showed COVID-19‘s impact, and its toll on our comfortable routine brought veteran Susan Branam to realize, “This year is so much harder for me because I have so much more time to reflect.”

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It’s a unique situation in our lives, but not in our history. A hundred years ago, sons of Rockland County fought a war in the middle of a pandemic.

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“Nearly one-third of the soldiers from Rockland County who died in World War I died not from German bullets, but rather from the Spanish flu,” Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann said.

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They reflected on heroes of the past while acknowledging heroes of the present.

“Doctors and nurses and therapists who have given their lives to save others, marching into battle against COVID-19, they have become our hero warriors,” said Rev. William Cosgrove of St. Augustine Church.

The weekend may not be the summer start we expected. The pandemic has changed many things, but not our duty to honor all those who served, and especially those who died.

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