ATLANTA – One was a 94-year-old veteran of World War II who was the first of his 11 brothers to enlist in the military. One was a Vietnam veteran who lost his leg overseas and was always touched when people thanked him for his service. Another was drafted into the military at 18 and was awarded a Purple Heart.
They are among the untold number of veterans who served and survived during times of war only to die in recent weeks from the coronavirus.
This year's Memorial Day will pay tribute not only to those who died on the battlefield but more recent fallen soldiers. And in a reminder of the way coronavirus has transformed American lives and traditions, many of the usual Memorial Day gatherings have been either canceled or curtailed — mindful of the pandemic that has already killed more than 90,000 people in the U.S.
It's making the situation even more painful for the relatives of those veterans who have died from the virus.
Robert Hopp was one of at least 79 residents of a veterans home in Paramus, New Jersey, to die from COVID-19, making the state-run facility one of the nation’s worst hot spots for the virus.
He served two and a half tours during the Vietnam War and received a Purple Heart after he was hit with enemy fire while in a helicopter. Everyone else on board the chopper died, but Hopp managed to climb into the pilot’s seat and fly to safety.
After being hospitalized recently for diabetic complications, his health deteriorated quickly and he died in April. He was 70 years old.
His family is at a loss about how they will mark the occasion.