PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic did not stop Americans from paying tribute to the nation’s heroes on Memorial Day.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy attended a ceremony at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown. COVID-19 has been hitting seniors especially hard, including veterans.

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CBS2’s Nick Caloway found out Monday how they were being honored.

The Paramus Veterans Memorial Home was devastated by this virus. Dozens and dozens of residents died.

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Outside the site of one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in the country, you’ll hear the lonesome sound of Alex Saldana’s trumpet. Every evening since April 8 the 13-year-old Boy Scout has come to play Taps to honor those lost to virus and bring hope to those still here.

“I wanted to do this so the veterans would know that they are not forgotten, and to show that people care about them, and that there is hope that one day things here will get better for them,” Saldana said.


The state-run veterans home has been ravaged by the virus. At least 79 residents have died of COVID-19. Others died after being transferred to other facilities, and many more were sickened.

“This is somebody’s father, someone’s grandfather, grandmother. It’s important that you understand what they went through in life. For them to die alone, without their family, it’s touching. It’s very hard,” said George Osbourne of the Passaic County Elks Lodge.

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This weekend, the Elks planted more than 100 American flags in the grass outside the veterans home, with each one representing a resident who died of the virus.

One of them was Arnold Haber, Rena Haber’s husband of 65 years and Mitchell Haber’s father.

“Each one of those flags have stories to tell, and now they’ll never be able to tell them anymore,” Mitchell Haber said.

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Arnold Haber was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. He lived in the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home for three years and at 91 years old he died of coronavirus.

His family was not allowed to be by his side, a grim reality for so many residents and their families.

“They served this country and they served it well, and for them to go out the way they went out, not on their own terms, it’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” Mitchell Haber said.

On Memorial Day, we honor all who served and all who sacrificed while fighting battles overseas before facing one final battle at home.

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After Monday, Saldana will not be playing Taps nightly outside the veterans home, but he said he still plans to come by at least once a week.