LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Year after year for more than a decade, Gail Johnson has visited the Los Angeles National Cemetery to pay her respects to her son: a fallen soldier.

But this weekend, it was different.

“It’s a little bit more lonely this year,” said Johnson, whose son was killed in Iraq on May 23, 2007.

“He was out there kicking the doors and finding bad guys and that was what happened when he was killed,” she said.

Johnson is Gold Star mother, a designation given by the Secretary of Defense allowing her to display a gold star on a service flag in honor of her son.

“As a parent, the most joyful thing you can hear I think is the laughter of your children. Probably the cruelest is that knock on the door,” she said.

For decades, local Boy and Girl Scouts have covered the graves of this cemetery in a blanket of patriotism the Saturday before Memorial Day. But, with a ban on large gatherings, the graves this year will stay empty, as the threat of COVID-19 looms.

“I understand the meaning of the flags,” said Tom Ruck of the Los Angeles National Cemetery. “I understand the meaning of the carnations, but if you have it in your heart, that’s what counts.”

Though there wasn’t and won’t be an organized event at the cemetery this year, loved ones were still stopping by Saturday to pay their respects.

“We always talk about when we pass by that these are the people who gave us our freedom,” said Vietnam veteran Brian Rooney, who brought his granddaughter.

People like Johnson’s son, Daniel Cagle.

“He knew the dangers in Iraq and he knew there was a high probability he wouldn’t come back so he spent a lot of very special time with all of us and he told me, ‘we should always honor him with laughter, not tears,’ ” Johnson said.

And though Johnson misses the events and support that usually come with Memorial Day weekend, she understands the necessity for social distancing.

Regardless, Johnson hopes we still remember the ones who served and the few who gave all for our freedom.

  1. linda slice says:

    so heartbreaking, i cannot even imagine losing a son. what is even sadder is that unless troops are on the ground in the US there is no fight…we have no business in someone else’s country…as much as i would like to “support your troops” i will not support the US invading other countries. was it worth the death of this young man…NO. the military should be protecting us from our tyranny here at home… look at us, we are under a lockdown, forced to wear masks, having our rights stripped away left and right…the only fight worth dying for is freedom…our troops are not fighting for our freedom in the middle east.
    all wars are rich man wars. they finance them and they profit from the death of the innocent. we have all been lied to and filled with propaganda…total brainwash. they are experts at it…so much so, young men give their lives for lies.

Leave a Reply to linda slice Cancel reply