(CNN)In what’s believed to be a first, no survivors or veterans of World War II attended the annual Pearl Harbor Day event in Hawaii due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, commemorating the day when Japanese forces launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, bringing the US into World War II.
A remembrance at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu takes place every year, typically bringing together Pearl Harbor survivors, WWII veterans and their family members to honor the lives lost during the attack. The event includes music, a Hawaiian blessing and wreath presentations.
But this year, like everything, the 79th anniversary ceremony looked different.
“Out of an overriding concern for the health and well-being of our Pearl Harbor survivors and other World War II veterans, the National Park Service and the Navy chose not to include these heroes in today’s commemoration at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites Visitor Center,” said Mike Andrews, deputy public affairs officer for the Navy Region Hawaii, in a statement to CNN.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that survivors or other veterans have not attended the ceremonies.”
Even without the heroes, the hourlong closed remembrance still featured other aspects, opening with “God Bless America” by the Pacific Fleet Band and closing with a rifle salute and aircraft flyover.
Veterans, rather than risking the virus, were encouraged to attend virtually instead, and those attending wore masks.
“The veterans and civilians caught in the crossfire of the opening battle of the Pacific War will always be an inspiration to the fighting men and women of today,” said Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, in a statement. “We are inspired by their courage under fire and we look forward to honoring them and remembering their legacy.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to worsen in the US, as hospitalizations hit a record high on Sunday. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the full impact of Thanksgiving on Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations has yet to be seen, meaning that in the coming weeks numbers could rise even higher.
Enrique Roman-Martinez, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, was last seen May 22 at a campsite on South Core Banks, one of the islands that make up Cape Lookout National Seashore, US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) spokesperson Chris Grey told CNN.
Roman-Martinez’s friends reported him missing the evening of May 23 and found his phone and wallet at the campsite.
Roman-Martinez’s severed head washed ashore May 29 in the area where the tides have washed up other remains in years past, according to a CID spokesperson.
Roman-Martinez suffered multiple chop injuries to the neck and cervical spine, indicative of decapitation, according to an autopsy report from the Division of Forensic Pathology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
Because the rest of his body was not recovered, medical examiners could not determine the cause of death, but based on autopsy findings it was determined Roman-Martinez’s death was due to homicide.
Special Agents with US Army CID are working closely with several federal and local agencies on this investigation and increased a reward from $15,000 to $25,000 for any information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the person responsible for the death of Roman-Martinez.
Roman-Martinez was a Chino, California, native who was described by family members as “a hippie.” It’s the reason family and friends wore tie-dye to his vigil in August, according to CNN affiliate WTVD-TV.
“There is no honor in silence,” Griselda Martinez, Roman-Martinez’s sister, told WTVD at the time. “My brother had a family that loved him and is hurt every single day that he’s not here. We implore anyone who knows anything to just speak up.”
Officials are also investigating the deaths of a soldier and a veteran whose bodies were found Wednesday afternoon in a Fort Bragg training area, according to CID. The deaths are being investigated by CID as homicides.
The soldiers were identified as Master Sgt. William J. Lavigne II, 37, and Timothy Dumas, 44.
Lavigne, who’d been in the army 19 years, was assigned to US Army Special Operations Command and was deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the Global War on Terrorism, according to a CID spokesperson.
Dumas was an Army veteran who had served at Fort Bragg, the spokesperson said.
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