LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Year after year for over a decade, Gail Johnson has visited the Los Angeles National Cemetery to pay her respects to her son: a fallen soldier.
But this weekend, it was different.
"It's a little bit more lonely this year," said Johnson, whose son was killed in Iraq on May 23, 2007.
"I was there kicking the doors and finding bad guys and that's what happened when they killed him," he said.
Johnson is the mother of the Golden Star, a designation given by the Secretary of Defense that allows him to display a golden star on a service flag in honor of his son.
"As a parent, I think the happiest thing you can hear is the laughter of your children. Probably the cruellest thing is that knock on the door, ”he said.
For decades, local Boy and Girl Scouts have covered the graves in this cemetery with a layer of patriotism on the Saturday before Memorial Day. But, with the ban on large gatherings, this year's graves will remain empty as the threat of COVID-19 looms.
"I understand the meaning of the flags," said Tom Ruck of the Los Angeles National Cemetery. "I understand the meaning of carnations, but if you have it in your heart, that's what counts."
Although there was not and will not be an event organized at the cemetery this year, loved ones still stopped by on Saturday to pay their respects.
"We always talk when we pass through here that these are the people who gave us our freedom," said Vietnam veteran Brian Rooney, who brought his granddaughter.
People like Johnson's son Daniel Cagle.
"He knew the dangers in Iraq and he knew that there was a high probability that he would not return, so he spent a very special time with all of us and said to me, 'We should always honor him with laughter, not tears & # 39; & # 39 ;, Johnson said.
And although Johnson misses the events and support that generally come with Memorial Day weekend, she understands the need for social estrangement.
Still, Johnson hopes we still remember those who served and the few who gave their all for our freedom.