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Veterans Day goes virtual, officials urge Nevadans to not gather

By Sudhiti Naskar

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Nevada is home to about 219,000 veterans, and it celebrates Veterans Day enthusiastically. In downtown Reno, there’s usually a well-attended parade down Virginia Street. But not this year. As the Silver State continues to experience a heightened COVID-19 situation, veterans this year are choosing to celebrate their special day virtually. 

Kat Miller, director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, joined a weekly media call Monday hosted by the state’s COVID-19 task force to talk about the department’s recommendations for Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Most of the events have been cancelled “in order to protect veterans, their [families] and their supporters,” she said. 

Miller was joined by Nevada’s COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage and Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek. 

Why the restriction?

A veteran at the 2019 Veterans Day parade in downtown Reno.
A veteran at the 2019 Veterans Day parade in downtown Reno. Image: Ty O’Neil

Generally 10,000 people gather to celebrate Veterans Day across the state and honor all men and women who served “in war times and peace times regardless of whether they died or survived,” said Miller.

But, veterans have been similarly affected by COVID-19 like their fellow Nevadans. Communities all over Nevada are suffering. 

Washoe County has remained flagged as high risk for seven continuous weeks, said Caleb Cage. The test positivity rate for the last two weeks is 13.6%. Nevada logged 960 new cases on a single day, Sunday, amounting to 110,982 total cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospital case counts are now at 891 (754 confirmed; 137 suspected) which is the highest recorded number of hospitalizations since mid-August. 

Virtual and safe Veterans Day

Considering the risks involved in having an all-out Veterans Day with public gatherings and spirited celebrations as is the custom, the Department of Veterans Services has come up with a virtual plan to celebrate. 

It has produced a State of Nevada Veterans Day video with the help of leaders in Nevada’s veterans community. 

The video features Gov. Steve Sisolak, Korean Consul General Kyung Jae Park, Nevada National Guard Major Gen. Ondra L. Barry, Chairman Bill Bowman of Nevada Veteran Services Commission, state commanders from veteran service organizations and others. The video will be available on the NDVS YouTube channel and website and social media pages on the morning of Nov. 11, Miller said. 

“While the video can never truly replace time-honored traditional celebrations, we are thankful to be able to celebrate Veterans Day with our family, veterans and supporters,” Miller added.

There will still be some safe celebratory activities in the state Veterans Homes located in southern and northern Nevada, but there won’t be any public gatherings in these homes “to protect all the veterans there,” Miller said. 

How Nevadans can get involved

There are still ways to get involved. One of the most effective things that people can do for veterans is to reach out to them. Veterans remain one of the most vulnerable populations in America and they appreciate understanding and help from communities around them. 

“If you are looking for an opportunity to support Nevada’s veterans, there are many local and state-wide programs, including the Nevada Veteran’s Advocate program; the SAVE suicide prevention online training program, or Heroes for Hero, a program that mutually connects our Veterans Home residents with volunteer supporters, ” Miller said. 

Miller also appealed to all Nevadans to show support and reach out to veterans by flying an American flag and calling and texting the veterans in their lives.

“We know that this is a challenge for many, but we do want to protect our community statewide and are only encouraging socially distant gatherings.”

More information is available on the NDVS website.

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