THE NEUTRAL ZONE
This Memorial Day has cast a light upon the effects the coronavirus is having on the military. Elevated precautions due to coronavirus are making it difficult for many veterans and their families to observe traditional military funeral honors. On March 23, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration temporarily placed a hold on committal services, requiring loved ones to observe the proceedings from their cars.
Military recruiting is also facing new challenges, as the pandemic is forcing many recruiters to avoid face-to-face meetings with potential recruits. Potential recruits who have tested positive for the coronavirus and recovered were previously banned from joining the military, however, that ban has recently been rescinded. “Soft contracts” are being utilized to serve as a bridge to predict how recruiting efforts will fare when normalcy is restored. Thousands of active-duty personnel are choosing to stay in the military longer, citing concerns about the job market, which could account for the decline in recruiting numbers as more decide to stay in for job security.
President Trump visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Memorial Day to commemorate fallen soldiers, wearing no mask. Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden also visited a veterans memorial in Deleware wearing a mask, which was his first public appearance in months.
DOD begins planning to reopen bases under the coronavirus ‘new normal’ – Stars and Stripes – 5/22/2020
Esper’s new instructions come at a time when the military has shown signs the virus’ spread is slowing among its troops, according to the Pentagon’s No. 2 general. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that the pandemic’s impacts on the U.S. military have been significantly smaller than on the rest of the United States, which has seen more than 1.5 million positive cases and 94,729 deaths as of Friday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Military continues to boost Hawaii economy during virus – Lincoln Journal Star – 5/25/2020
The financial damaged suffered by the state because of the significant decrease in tourism has been offset by uninterrupted employment at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and continued military contracts, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday. The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a state jobless rate of 22%, while the shipyard continues to employ 5,800 civilian workers, making it the state’s largest industrial employer that adds about $1 billion to Hawaii’s economy.
The military is bracing for the coronavirus to put a dent in its manpower – Business Insider – 5/23/2020
As accessions have slowed in the first half of this year, Donovan said, the services have been more flexible in their retention efforts, to make up for the shortfall on the back end. “What they’ve done is they’ve put in voluntary extensions of reenlistment periods or voluntary dates of separation being pushed out,” he said. “And you could go to the services for more detail, but that has been effective so far.”
No More ‘Kneecap to Kneecap’ Talks: Coronavirus Hinders Military Recruiting – New York Times – 5/20/2020
A faltering economy usually spells success for military recruiters. But a sector that relies on face-to-face interactions to bring in newcomers — followed by mandatory medical exams and intensive job training in close quarters — has been hampered by the pandemic, which has curtailed recruitment efforts and hobbled some service members who are forced into quarantine for weeks on end before they can get to their first assignment.
Thousands Delay Plans to Leave US Military – VOA – 5/23/2020
Antonio Gozikowski was planning to leave the United States Army next month and go to college. Gozikowski, an Army Sergeant, has served six years in the military. His goal in college was to expand his medical skills, become a dentist and then return to the Army in a few years. But the coronavirus health crisis is forcing universities to consider online classes or reduced schooling. So, Gozikowski decided to sign up for a new Army program and extend his military service for six more months.
CNN on Twitter, 5/25/2020: Coronavirus — and the experience of the fear, grief and isolation that accompany it — may help to forge a closer and more healthy relationship between the American people and their military, @johnfkirby63 writes for CNN Opinion
KTSM 9 News on Twitter, 5/25/2020: Americans marked a Memorial Day like no other as the coronavirus pandemic upended traditional commemorations and forced communities to honor the nation’s military dead with smaller ceremonies like car convoys instead of parades.
MD National Guard on Twitter, 5/25/2020: Due to #COVID19, gatherings are being kept to a bare minimum. The @MDNG honor guard is still offering funeral services for military members. While these ceremonies are scaled down for social distancing, the tradition still carries on. #MemorialDay
NPR on Twitter, 5/25/2020: Navy nurse Ruth Gunther, who joined up in 1942 and worked treating troops wounded in the Pacific, is among those who are unable to visit this year because of the pandemic.
Karen Travers on Twitter, 5/25/2020: President Trump marks Memorial Day with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. @ABC‘s @devindwyer looked at how the changing of the guard tradition at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continues despite the coronavirus outbreak