May 20, 2020

Expert: Safely observe, remember Memorial Day during the pandemic

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —Many events held over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend to remember military personnel who have died during their time in service will be changed to comply with crowd guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

A Purdue University social scientist who studies military families said the weekend can still be about remembering those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but in a different way.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute and a professor in human development and family studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences, says sharing stories is an important part of the holiday.

“You can continue to observe and honor those who died by sharing a story, either through social media or through activities coordinated by veterans’ and military organizations,” MacDermid Wadsworth said. “You can help others learn about and understand the experiences of your family’s service and loss.”

wadsworth-profile Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of human development and family studies and director of the Center for Families and the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. (Purdue University photo) Download image

Another way is to become a citizen archivist by volunteering to transcribe veteran service records, letters and correspondence for the National Archives or similar institutions with military records. Zooniverse, an organization that uses volunteers to assist with research, is needing assistance transcribing World War II documents and records and military records of African American soldiers in the Civil War.

A different aspect of Memorial Day is talking with veterans to gather their stories before they are lost.

 “Organizations such as StoryCorps have apps to assist with recording and guides to help people know what and how to ask certain questions of veterans, as some experiences and stories may be hard to share and be emotional,” MacDermid Wadsworth said. 

If a visit to a cemetery is planned, MacDermid Wadsworth encourages people to follow all social distancing, masking and hand-washing requirements. 

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Writer: Matthew Oates,765-586-7496,,

Source: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth,, @MFRIPurdue

Note to Journalists: A photo of Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, as well as a stock photo, are available on Google Drive. MacDermid Wadsworth is available for phone or web-based video interviews.

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