1,000 Flags event canceled this year but we can observe Memorial Day in other ways, Rotary sponsor says

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This will be a Memorial Day like no other. Cemeteries across Kern County that normally host Memorial Day events will either hold virtual events instead this year, or simply place flags. And one of Bakersfield’s most popular Memorial Day weekend events will have a very different look as well.

Every year at this time the Park at Riverwalk is a field of green thick with the red, white and blue — a lump in your throat sight to behold if ever there was one. That’s the way it would have looked this weekend too, if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t shut down practically everything — mass gatherings in particular.

This would have been the seventh annual 1,000 Flags, a three day event that honors not only America’s fallen — in traditional Memorial Day fashion — but also active duty military and civilian first responders. To say there’s disappointment among members of the Bakersfield Breakfast Rotary — the event’s primary sponsor — is an understatement. But Denise Haynes, one of the organizers, prefers to look at it another way.

“We still want to let them know that we remember them this Memorial Day and we’re still paying tribute in the way that we can,” Haynes said. “…. Yes, let’s be careful, let’s exercise common sense and concern for our community members, but at the same time, let’s pay tribute in a respectful, mindful manner to those that we need to pay respect to, and in our case, our fallen heroes, our current service people and our first responders.”

If anything, Haynes says, we have expanded the definition of Memorial Day hero this year to account for the front line soldiers in the war against the coronavirus —- medical professionals putting their lives at risk for our safety.

“I have a daughter and a daughter in law who are nurses — one’s in intensive care and one’s in the emergency room — and I think about them constantly, and how nervous they must be, but also their desire to serve and to help people,” Haynes said. “So as a mom I’m scared for them but I’m also super proud. I also have a son who works with Hall Ambulance. And he’s out there on the front lines and I’m scared for him but I’m really proud of what he is doing in the face of all of this.”

So how do we celebrate Memorial Day — mindful of those who’ve sacrificed — in this strange and restricting environment?

“Keep it in your heart,” Haynes said. “If you are uncomfortable being out in public then keep it in your heart and celebrate it in your home with your family. Call a first responder, call a military individual, and let them know how much you love them, and how much you appreciate them.”

That’s the message from Bakersfield Breakfast Rotary. Just because we don’t have all of those American flags doesn’t mean we can’t honor America’s heroes.

Bakersfield Breakfast Rotary promises to be back next year.

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