DIXON, Calif. (KTXL) — Many people spent Memorial Day honoring those who sacrificed their lives in service to the country.
It was also a time to recognize all those who have served at cemeteries across the nation, such as at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon where 31,000 gravesites are reserved for service members.
“We’re like a band of brothers. We’re veterans, we’re veteran’s families,” said Frank Romo, the president of Sacramento Valley Memorial Cemetery Support Committee.
Romo participated in a brief, low-key wreath-laying Monday in place of the big annual Memorial Day ceremony, which was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Attendance at burials was limited to 15 loved ones until just last week.
Romo said his brother died last year and that his memorial was delayed.
“It’s very difficult to not have all the family that you want,” Romo told FOX40.
Now, those restrictions have been lifted and vaccinated visitors no longer have to wear masks.
Veteran Leonard Woolams’ father is also buried at the cemtery.
“COVID-19 has been very frustrating for us all and we just have to lick this stuff, and we’re making progress doing that,” Woolam said.
The cemetery will begin handling a backlog of burials, with up to 30 scheduled on Tuesday alone.
Not everyone who came out to pay respects to veterans actually has a loved one buried at the National Cemetery.
Recently-retired Air Force veteran John Villenueva brought his two kids to pay respects to strangers. He has relatives in the Phillipines who benefitted from the sacrifices of American soldiers during World War II.
“If it wasn’t for some of the service members here, potentially myself, my kids, my family might not even be here today,” he said.
His kids practiced the tradition of placing coins on the gravestones, which lets family members know someone else came to visit and pay respects.
“I liked it because it helped me remember what happened when I wasn’t here, of how we made America a better place,” Sophia Villenueva told FOX40.
“It’s great that all these people helped us fight for our country, but it’s sad that they all had to die doing it,” added John Villenueva.
The Sacramento Valley National Cemetery Support Committee hopes to resume the annual wreath-laying ceremony in December, where wreaths are laid out at each of the 31,000 gravesites. That event has up to 4,000 to 5,000 visitors each year.