VENICE — Volunteers walked among the acres of Venice Memorial Gardens early Friday, placing American flags at the graves, mausoleums and other markers of veterans as Memorial Day weekend began.

While a small ceremony traditionally takes place, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the cemetery just sought — and found — volunteers to dress grave sites with flags.

The groups were urged to keep mindful of social-distance recommendations, with some people wearing masks during the event.

Lisa Novis, of Burke, Virginia, was visiting her mother in Venice.

Her husband served in the U.S. Army and was employed with the Department of Defense after that. Novis also worked for the DOD for 35 years.

“I’ve always wanted to do this and finally got the chance,” Novis said as she placed flags during the solemn morning.

Cindy and Gil Smith, of Venice, were also among the volunteers. Their son served in the Army, completing two tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan in special operations, eventually leaving the service as a major.

“We feel it’s our patriotic duty,” Cindy Smith said.

Cindy Smith is also a member of Daughters of the American Revolution and is involved in Wreaths Across America as well.

Being a member of DAR “makes you aware of the history and the trials and tribulations of past generations,” she said. And the most recent generation as well, Gil Smith noted, speaking of his son’s service.

“It really gives you an appreciation for their sacrifice,” he said.

Marjorie Dellecker, with Venice Memorial Gardens, said such events give people a chance to honor the veterans in the cemetery, and she appreciated the volunteers coming out to dress the graves.

“It’s people who want to participant in something meaningful — and this is meaningful,” Dellecker said.

It also gave them a chance to get outside — but it wasn’t like it’s been in the past.

“It’s different this year — everything is different this year,” she said.

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