NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Each year in May, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) comes together to observe Memorial Day in remembrance of the service members who sacrificed their lives in service to the United States Armed Forces. The NNSY Veteran Employee Group (VET-ERG) aimed to continue their annual celebration of life for the fallen heroes despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The group did so by putting precautions in place to effectively social distance while still honor those who are “Gone, But Never Forgotten.”
The NNSY VET-ERG held the Memorial Day Fall-In for Colors May 19, inviting the civilian workforce, Sailors, and tenant command employees to come together to pay respects to those who have passed.
“We observe Memorial Day to honor the service members who sacrificed their lives in service of the United States Armed Forces,” said Shipyard Commander Capt. Kai Torkelson at the ceremony. “Today is a day of remembrance and reflection honoring the many lives lost, many perishing in the prime of their lives and leaving so many loved ones behind to treasure their memories and honor their legacies. We stand here today in solidarity both as dedicated members of Norfolk Naval Shipyard and as proud Americans.”
The VET-ERG team held a wreath dedication during the ceremony and crafted a symbolic Battlefield Cross out of personal effects of shipyard veterans to represent their fallen brothers and sisters. In addition, NNSY’s Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department (Code 2340) Assistant Shift Test Engineer (ASTE) William Silke returned to play a rendition of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes for the second year in a row – a skill he took up 14 years ago in honor and celebration of his uncle, New York Police Department Officer Stephen P. Driscoll who passed away Sept. 11, 2001. Lastly, Ret. MSgt. Tom Draper provided his service as a bugler for the event, playing “Taps” in honor of the fallen.
“The observance of Memorial Day is one of the biggest events conducted by the VET-ERG and in spite of current restrictions, we wanted to ensure that it happened to help boost the morale of our NNSY family,” said VET-ERG President Nicholas Boyle. “The requirement of social distancing prevented the larger scale contribution of past years, but we didn’t want to lose the key elements, so with the necessity to scale down the event, we ensured that the major components of the program were kept. This was all coordinated by members of the group, on short notice, due in part from the evolving policy enacted as a response to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. It once again shows how well our Veterans can answer the call when requested.”