Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Arkansas paid tribute to members of the military Monday who have died in the line of duty. Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke at a Memorial Day service at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock which was not open to the public, but streamed online.
"I am glad that in Arkansas, we have decided to go ahead and to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice today, even though it is under unusual circumstances and protocols," Hutchinson told a small group of military and state leaders. He noted that some states had cancelled their official holiday events.
In a ceremony complete with traditions like the playing of “Taps” and the laying of wreaths, Hutchinson spoke of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on society, comparing it to adversaries fought in wars.
"Today we face another enemy. It is a deadly virus, cannot be seen," Hutchinson said. "It silently attacks and kills. Almost 100,000 Americans have lost their lives within 100 days as a result of this new enemy. How do we respond? Well, we respond the same as Americans have responded for more than 200 years: with grit by calling upon the strength of the American character, and the resilience of the American spirit."
The governor spoke of seeing a photo over the weekend from 1918 showing a football game in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, the Allies were nearing victory during World War I in Europe, but the nation was being devastated by the Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans.
Hutchinson noted that spectators in the stands at Grant Stadium were wearing face coverings and were appropriately distanced from one another.
"That was over 100 years ago. They reflected the spirit of our great country – war in Europe and a deadly virus at home – yet life went on with common sense protections," Hutchinson said. "If they can go to a football game, surely, we can come here today in these unusual circumstances to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice."
Hutchinson also expressed his gratitude for the work being done by medical professionals and called on “the American spirit, which replaces fear with action, common sense, and compassion” to aid in getting through the challenges that are similar to those encountered over a century ago.