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Area Veterans Day ceremonies still on, but will look different due to COVID-19
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Area Veterans Day ceremonies still on, but will look different due to COVID-19

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The Oakcrest High School Junior ROTC Honor Guard presents the colors to open the 2019 Veterans Day ceremony in Hamilton Township.

While multiple Veterans Day ceremonies will be held Wednesday in South Jersey, they will look slightly different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the rise in cases the state has seen in recent weeks, most, if not all, ceremonies will be held outside and be scaled back. On Tueseday, Gov. Phil Murphy reported 3,877 new COVID-19 cases, adding that 11,326 additional cases had been reported since Thursday.

The Brigantine Veterans of Foreign Wars post held its Veterans Day ceremony Sunday, but without the annual parade that traditionally precedes it.

“Due to the spike in cases, (the VFW) didn’t advertise the ceremony as much so that not many people would come out,” Brigantine Mayor Vince Sera said.

The parade, he said, usually has about 60 to 80 participants and even more people lining the streets. The ceremony usually then includes about seven to 10 speakers followed by refreshments at the VFW.

This year, the ceremony, held at the Veterans Triangle near 30th Street, only had four speakers, and the VFW luncheon was scrapped. But many still showed up to the ceremony, Sera said, estimating about 80 people in attendance.

“Normally there’s so many people there that you can’t (begin to) count,” he said.

Even though the event was scaled down, Sera said it was very ceremonial, with Last Salute, the military funeral honor guard, folding an American flag as they do at military funerals, a canon shooting and the laying of wreaths.

“They made a lot of sacrifice to protect us all,” Sera said. “It’s important for us to honor them and show them that their sacrifice is never forgotten.”

In Somers Point, a Veterans Day ceremony and ribbon cutting will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Patriot’s Park at First Street and Bethel Road. The ribbon cutting will be for the newly repaved bike path, which was renamed “Purple Heart Way” between Ocean Heights and New Jersey avenues.

With a $1.5 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the city poured new asphalt, widened the path an additional 4 feet, replaced 81 lamp posts along the path, installed flashing beacons at crosswalks and updated access points to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I thought it was such a good day for the ribbon cutting,” Somers Point Mayor Jack Glasser said. “Somers Point has always been a really big veterans town. The VFW, submarine memorial, Patriots Park and American Legion are all along the bike path. I think it’s apropos to name it Purple Heart Way.”

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Typically the Veterans Day ceremony draws about 100 people, Glasser said. This year, he expects fewer people to attend.

“I don’t think we’ll get that many people,” he said. “But I couldn’t see not having it because we didn’t have a Memorial Day service (due to COVID-19).”

“We have to remember our veterans, especially now,” he added.

He’s also worried about the weather. Wednesday is expected to see thickening clouds on another warm day. Afternoon highs will be 70 to 75 degrees. Rain will develop Wednesday evening, just after dark. It will be heavy at times, with 1 to 2 inches expected, and the highest totals near Cape May.

If the rain comes early, Glasser said an even smaller ceremony will be held inside the American Legion at First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz also announced changes to that city’s Veterans Day ceremony in Brown’s Memorial Park.

“Because of the effects of COVID-19, the expected rise in flu cases and the advanced age of many of our veterans, the Nov. 11 Veterans Day observance will be scaled back,” Shabazz said. “We must not and we will not forget our veterans and the sacrifices they made to protect and preserve our freedom.”

This year’s event will feature a wreath laying and the playing of taps. No public attendees will be invited, only city and area officials, Shabazz said.

“It is my hope that in 2021 we will have the type of expanded event that has been our practice,” Shabazz said. “But we can’t not recognize our veterans. They made it safe for us, so we have to show our appreciation.”

Ocean City’s Veterans Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Ocean City Tabernacle at 550 Wesley Ave.

The ceremony will include music, remarks, prayer and the placing of a memorial wreath. All attendees will be asked to wear masks and to maintain social distancing. The Tabernacle auditorium will be sanitized in advance, and windows and doors will remain open to increase air circulation.

The ceremony also will be streamed live.

Staff Writers Molly Bilinski and Joe Martucci contributed to this report.

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