Stuck at home? Virtual events can get you moving on Memorial Day

By Nick Fortuna

What a difference a year makes. Memorial Day weekend in 2019 saw 43 million Americans travel, the second-highest total since the American Automobile Association began tracking holiday travel volume in 2000. Fast forward to 2020, and AAA has chosen not to make a holiday travel forecast for the first time in 20 years. 

“With social-distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. Memorial Day weekend in 2009, which came toward the end of a deep recession, holds the record for the lowest holiday travel volume at about 31 million Americans, according to AAA.

COVID-19 has spoiled a great many travel plans, but that doesn’t mean Americans can’t be on the move this weekend. Many annual Memorial Day walks and runs are happening virtually this year, and other events offer the opportunity to pay tribute to our nation’s fallen heroes either virtually or while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum will hold its Virtual Run & Walk all weekend to honor those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. Participants may walk or run one mile, five kilometers or 10 kilometers. 

The museum encourages participants to use the social-media tags #WeHonorThemTogether and @nationalvmm to share photos, their locations and stories about their participation and those being remembered. Museum staff will be monitoring and highlighting participation across the nation on social media.

A portion of entry fees benefit the museum. With the holiday weekend upon us, registrants will not receive their commemorative T-shirt and runner’s bib in the mail until after the event. 

● What’s the runner’s equivalent of a 21-gun salute to honor our military heroes? Participating in the 21-kilometer Remember the Fallen Virtual Run, part of the Virtual Run Challenge, which donates a portion of all registration fees to charity. In reference to the high honor of a 21-gun salute, the number 21 is central to the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

The U.S. Army sentinel on guard marches 21 steps south down the black mat laid across the tomb, turns to face east toward the tomb for 21 seconds, turns to face north, moves his weapon to his outside shoulder, waits 21 seconds, marches 21 steps up the mat, turns to face east for 21 seconds, then turns to face south, moves his weapon to his outside shoulder again and waits 21 seconds before repeating the process.

Registrants will receive a Remember the Fallen finisher’s medal and a race bib and are encouraged to share their finishing times online. 

● Run for the Medal virtual runs are taking place in cities all over the country, including Atlanta and Nashville, with race organizers providing course maps for each location or encouraging participants to run in their own communities. Participants may run or walk 5k, 10k, the half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles or any distance of their choosing. They then may post their times on and compare their results to those of their friends and neighbors.

Runners can register until noon Monday and print out a downloadable, customizable run bib. They also will receive a “swag bag” in the mail containing a commemorative T-shirt, some running freebies and a large finisher’s medal.

● You don’t have to run to pay tribute to America’s fallen heroes. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will be hosting an online observance and live webcast Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern. Visit the fund’s website to post a personal written or video message honoring those who served. The site also provides a virtual tour of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The city of Alpharetta, Ga., and its Rotary Club will host a virtual Memorial Day tribute from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on Monday featuring an invocation, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, a remembrance video, the playing of Taps and a speech by former Army Ranger Grant McGarry.

Kentucky Military History Museum

In Lake Charles, La., the public is encouraged to drive through the flag display at Orange Grove Graceland Cemetery from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday. Casket flags line the drive through the cemetery in honor of the fallen. The memorial flags measure five feet by 9 1/2 feet and are generally too large for proper display at home.Lastly, the Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort recently held a live virtual tour on its Facebook page in recognition of Memorial Day. Watch the video here: