Front-line workers recognized this Memorial Day for fighting ‘invisible enemy’

Justin Udo
May 25, 2020 - 1:40 pm
Battleship New Jersey Memorial Day 2020

Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

CAMDEN, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — For years, Michael Hayes has spent the morning of Memorial Day on the Battleship New Jersey, remembering the men and women who died in combat for the country.

But in addition to military servicemen and women this year, Hayes recognized front-line and essential workers, who are currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic head-on, some losing their lives along the way.

Due to the pandemic and social distancing rules, the annual ceremony aboard the Battleship New Jersey was limited to few attendees. The event was livestreamed on Facebook for others to watch from home.

“No matter if we had to be socially distant, we still came, because that's what we're all called to do,” said Hayes, who is also the director of accounting for the Battleship.

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Hayes, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, admitted that in the past, he’s hasn’t said much on Memorial Day.

“But this year, I wanted to say something, and one of the reasons why was because of our invisible enemy that's out here,” he said.

On the ship, Hayes honored the front-line workers who have sacrificed their lives to battle the pandemic and help others.

“This year, we have an unseen enemy. Our Reservists, our National Guard have been asked to come forward. … There are many others who just like us were brought forward in this battle, but they wear a different uniform: It’s called a scrub, it’s called an EMT uniform, and they too have stood firm to fight this enemy and lost their lives to save our countrymen and women. On this day, I salute them as well,” he said.

Jack Willard, director of marketing, group and event sales for the Battleship, echoed Hayes.

“More so than ever, we have to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Memorial Day was something that was created to remember those who died in battle or died in defense of our nation. I think this year it has added value and added meaning for those that protect us from our invisible enemy, the coronavirus.”