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Many view Memorial Day weekend as the start of the summer season, but it more importantly is a time to honor the brave men and women killed or missing in action at war.

This year’s observance will likely be remembered for the altered state we find ourselves in and the necessary cancellation of community gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We face a unique and unprecedented challenge as we consider how to reopen our country and our post.

The question of how we stay safe and get back to normal while continuing to social distance is difficult, but I have confidence we will find our way. We will have to rethink how we work and play, reshape customs and refocus our attention on the challenges of creating a new normal.

Everyone is eager to emerge from this long hiatus and your garrison is anxious to assist with this process. Reopening activities and event areas will likely be gradual, so continued patience is essential. As administrative offices and other activities begin to reopen their doors, we all must remember to exercise the social and physical distancing techniques we’ve adopted and continue to follow additional guidelines as they are established. 

In addition to the threat of COVID-19, we are about to embark on a season historically observed as one of high-risk activity. In preparation for the summer kick-off, I encourage each of you to take a moment to plan for each activity to ensure time spent with family and friends will be both safe and memorable.

The extended hours of daylight and warmer temps offer opportunities to enjoy water activities, bicycling, cook-outs, concerts and countless other outdoor activities.  Enjoy your summer with a renewed awareness of the risks associated with every activity. Re-engage with others in a safe, respectful and creative manner. 

If driving, be considerate of others on the road. Drive defensively, obey the posted speed limit, always wear seatbelts and insist passengers wear them as well, and never drink and drive. Driving under the influence is not acceptable or safe and can have serious consequences. 

If you must use your cellphone while driving, use a hands-free device and never text and drive. Motorcyclists also are excited to get back on the road. Riders, ensure you’re properly trained and are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment. Motorists, be alert and remember to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. If boating, ensure you have completed the state’s safe boating course and make certain there is a personal flotation device readily accessible for every occupant in the vessel.

We can safely celebrate summer and all its diversity with both enthusiasm and satisfaction when we embrace our values, practice a little patience and lead by example. No matter the activity, ensure you and your family have the proper training and skills to combat the hazards you will certainly encounter not only this weekend, but also throughout the summer.

Let’s make sure this Memorial Day is memorable for all the right reasons.  On behalf of Command Sgt. Maj. James House, myself and the entire Fort Lee Garrison command group, please stay safe and accept our best wishes for an energizing holiday weekend!