While it won’t officially be recorded in the COVID-19 pandemic statistics reported by public officials, it looks like it’s going to be one of the most painful losses of all.

American Legion Post 20 Commander Don Dowling said there will be no Memorial Day service at Hillcrest Cemetery this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So there will be no service this Monday, May 25, which is Memorial Day.

But it looks like it won’t even be possible for the Avenue of Flags to be displayed at Hillcrest Cemetery. And it looks like the 4,000 flags that are normally placed at the graves of veterans who served this country won’t be placed as well.

American Legion Post 20 normally places 1,500 large American flags at Hillcrest Cemetery that forms the Avenue of Flags for Memorial Day. There are also 4,000 small flags placed at the graves of veterans at Hillcrest, Vandalia Cemetery and St. Anne’s Cemetery.

Dowling said it doesn’t look like it’s possible for the Avenue of Flags and the small flags to be placed. Because of the number of volunteers it takes, it would be too difficult to meet social distancing guidelines to place the flags in a timely manner, Dowling said.

He said five truckloads are used and there are 10 volunteers to a truckload who place all of the flags. “It’s just not possible,” Dowling said. “We would give our hearts to put the flags out.”

Dowling said it’s a three-day process to place all the flags and then all of the flags would have to be removed on Monday night.

He said he’s been involved in placing the flags for more than 30 years. He added he believes the flags have been placed at the cemeteries since the early 70s. “We haven’t missed a day until this year,” Dowling said.

Dowling added this year’s public Flag Day ceremony which has been held here annually on June 14 has also been canceled. He did say the large flag at Grocery Outlet will be replaced.

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