Coronavirus pandemic prevents veterans from receiving final military funeral honors

Posted 6 days ago


BUSHNELL, Fla. -- Memorial Day weekend is a special time of year at Florida National Cemetery. Rows of American flags beautifully line the roadways, the spring sun glistens off the faces of the headstones, and the soft sound of bells tolling can be heard echoing throughout the grounds.

But for Michael Chance, this Memorial Day weekend is very different. It’s the first without his father, Owin.

“He was my rock,” Chance told Fox News. “If I ever needed something he was the one person I could turn to. What more can you say? He was my dad…he was my hero.”

And a hero to many more. For over 20 years, Owin Chance served in the United States Navy. He retired a Chief Petty Officer and remained a patriot throughout his life.

Chance says that his father was very proud of his time in the military, and planned to be interred at Florida National Cemetery upon his death. There, he would receive his final military honors through the traditional ceremony.

“He knew everything that was going to happen. He knew he was going to be interred there, he knew the ritual that would normally take place for a retired serviceman,” said Chance, adding that his father had effectively planned out his whole funeral.

On May 4th, Owin Chance passed away. Days later, he was interred at Florida National Cemetery.

But, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no presentation of the flag. There was no playing of "Taps." And there were no final honors given.

This consequence of the pandemic is playing out at National Cemeteries across the country. On March 23, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration (NCA), “temporarily discontinued committal services,” according to the NCA’s website. As of April 15, families that wish to view their loved ones being interred must watch from their cars.

Gerard Lyons, assistant director at Florida National Cemetery, says his heart breaks for the families, but his whole team must follow CDC guidelines for the time being.

“That is to protect our veterans and their families,” Lyons told Fox News. “Right now, we are only doing direct interments.”

Lyons, an Army veteran himself, says he wants every veteran to receive the service, and makes clear that all families who still wish for a ceremony will be given one retroactively.

“We are completely dedicated to honoring your loved one's service,” said Lyons. “When we come out on the other side, we will ensure that every veteran gets their earned burial and honors benefits.”

As of May 22, 306 veterans have been interred at Florida National ... (Read more)